At least 2/3 of U.S. high school students attend a school with a police officer to provide safety, and that proportion is higher for students of color. Schools with police officers are more likely to refer children to law enforcement.
1,000s of instances of police brutality against civilians and journalists reported during anti-racism protests since June 2020.
There has been a 55 percent increase in white nationalist hate groups since 2017.
Police killed 1,127 people in the US in 2020. The UN Definition of a war: An active conflict that has claimed at least 1,000 lives.
2020 set the record for U.S. gun sales: Firearm purchases climbed every month since March, and more than 1.7 million background checks were conducted in October alone, a roughly 60% jump over the same period in 2019.
Attacks on the Asian American Community escalated throughout 2020 and reported incidents of harassment and assault totaled 4,548.
Grounded in the strengths and needs of local community partners, NP is building relationships with community members, leaders, and organizations in theMinneapolis-St. Paul area to identify gaps and approach safety and securityfrom a holistic perspective. Our work is informed by understanding what communities need to feel safe and secure—to feel affirmed and a sense of belonging— which includes and goes beyond physical safety.
Opportunities continue to emerge for Nonviolent Peaceforce to collaborate with community partners to open dialogue, maintain space for civic engagement and protest, as well as equip students, community members, and safety professionals alike with actionable frameworks and skills in both violence prevention and nonviolent resolution of conflict.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by then Minneapolis Police Officers. This event catalyzed country-wide (and global) protests for racial justice and anti-racist action. These events and the conversations that followed, together with the social stresses that were exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as the deep political divisions manifesting into violence, have brought the current situation and its origins to the forefront: the United States is grappling with issues of civilian protection, rethinking security, and how to move forward.
Michael Hamad's analysis offers additional insight: "The 2020 presidential election was in some ways the exposed tip of an iceberg, towering over a mostly hidden mass of political and social polarization, animosity toward our fellow citizens and a broad suspicion of government institutions — all symptoms of a distressed nation and a democracy that’s rapidly drifting away. For many Americans already angry over salary compression and their inability to get ahead, the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is a waking nightmare. Much of the anger is race-based; some feel their privileged positions are being threatened by immigrants or citizens of color. But the root causes go back decades and even centuries, stretching from slavery to birtherism, from historical social divisions based on race and class to the extreme income inequality and partisanship of the Trump era."
Nonviolent Peaceforce can be one part of preventing mass violence in the United States and helping guide imaginative conversations and processes. In cities around the country, protesters and civilians have banded together to de-escalate force by federal agents, protect neighborhoods and local businesses, call for accountability in municipal budgeting and policing, and re-envision community safety. Yet, communities often grapple with what it means to maintain their commitments to less reliance on law enforcement response to safety concerns that can be resolved without use of force or threat of force.
Our approach is always about prevention of, as well as responses to violence. Not only does there need to be a systemic and cultural uprooting of the violence that permeates so much of U.S. society, but in the U.S. there is an immediate need for direct civilian protection at certain flashpoints for violence (at polling places, demonstrations, marches and community events). Nonviolent Peaceforce will build on recent examples of rapid deployment of civilian protectors, people who are trained and ready to deescalate situations of potential violence in the Twin Cities and New York City. Following invitations to facilitate safety at each of these events, NP staff and volunteers use the tools of unarmed civilian protection to build a container of holistic safety. Frequently requested support includes protective presence, community mapping, threat assessment, and protective accompaniment (i.e. escorting demonstrators to a car or their homes following a demonstration).
We are continuing to engage and train new volunteers and using our community connections with organizations to expand our base of community protectors and better keep civilians safe from state violence and maintain civic space.
❉ Strengthening community protection capacity
Our approach to community safety is based in recognizing and enhancing pre-existing capacities and security strategies. We believe communities know best how to protect themselves, and have the right to exercise protection in the way that best suits them. As such, we have worked with various neighborhood organizations and nascent community safety projects, to provide ongoing training, mentoring and support—and most importantly opportunities to connect across organizations and share resources.
We are also working to support neighborhood and community groups with training and mentoring in de-escalation, mutual protection and holistic safety in order to create change within the broader community.
For example, NP has worked with a local community development program for young men who have experienced trauma associated with gang/clique violence. Nonviolent Peaceforce provides training to the young men, ages 15 – 21, in North Minneapolis and with NP’s support they have organized various neighborhood patrols and protective actions.
NP is also supporting the work of the Asian American Federation in their #HopeAgainstHate Campaign. This campaign was created in response to the surge of hate-based attacks against Asians and Asian Americans across the US in the last year. NP will be building leadership capacity through trainings for “Safety Ambassadors” and volunteers providing protective accompaniment for elders, as well as working with small business owners to develop Safe one across the city.
Many other organizations have requested our assistance with ongoing trainings and mentoring and we are fielding further requests here.
❉ Reimagining school safety
Violence in schools does not just stay within schools; what happens at school and in the community influence one another. And historically, students of color in Minneapolis and elsewhere have experienced the disproportionate impact of school disciplinary measures. There is another way to build holistic safety for all students.
High school students in the Minneapolis Public School District led the call to remove School Resource Officers (SROs) and cut their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department, opening conversations around who would take their place to secure the wellbeing of all students. After the Minneapolis School Board voted in early June to not renew their contract with the Minneapolis Police, the school district hired unarmed school safety specialists and contracted with NP to provide training and mentoring. Nonviolent Peaceforce continues to develop a relationship with the Minneapolis Public School District (MPS) to broaden the types of methods that could be used in the school setting to enhance student and staff safety in the absence of SROs. Nonviolent Peaceforce helped give the student organizers a seat at the table and advocated on behalf of the students to ensure that their voices were heard in all phases of the development of the new safety plan.
Now, NP will collaborate with Minneapolis Public Schools to develop a Student Peace Advisory Group. The students will take the lead in developing new school safety initiatives and co-create trainings and engagement strategies to foster the safety and belonging of all.
"While we are reimagining and co-creating a safer and more just world, we want to have the tools to navigate the current one."
- Kalaya'an Mendoza
volunteers trained and deployed to provide protection at 30 polling sites in St. Paul and Minneapolis for the November 2020 elections.
Minneapolis Public Schools school safety specialists trained in unarmed civilian protection to provide school security, rather than armed police officers.
individuals across the US trained in Situation Awareness, De-escalation, Upstander Intervention.
volunteers in the Twin Cities trained in unarmed civilian protection in 2021.