DeAngelo Bester, Desmond Meade, Adam Lioz

Connecting the Dots: Money in Politics, Civic Engagement & Police Accountability

By: Sara Grossman

Panelists in this breakout session explored how the increasing role of money in politics has driven the rise of a political agenda predicated on limiting participation, access and inclusion in democratic processes—and what can be done to counteract these trends.

The panelists, DeAngelo Bester of Workers Center For Racial Justice, Desmond Meade, of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and the chairman of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and Adam Lioz of Demos, tackled such questions as: How are community organizers working with online organizers to unseat prosecutors who hold the police above the law and above the concerns of communities?; Are there effective strategies for working with police departments to help them counter the toll of discrimination and bias and what can we need to do to make this happen?

Since the end of the Jim Crow era, political and economic power interests have advanced racialized “tough on crime” narratives to mobilize popular support for an economic agenda predicated on exclusion. As the role of outside money and the influence of the economic elite has grown in politics, the gap between the needs and concerns of constituents and priorities of elected officials has widened.

One way in which we witness this is through the growing use of state power to cause harm, rather than to prevent harm, and the passing of policies that exclude rather than expand the inclusion of communities into the circle of human concern.  

Given these circumstances, it is no surprise that voter disenfranchisement and civic disengagement are widespread. But as unjust policing comes under increased scrutiny, the panelists noted that organized members of targeted communities have begun to identify openings to build power and transform these systems using inside and outside strategies. Through online organizing campaigns, on the ground organizing and working with police departments directly, activists are leading efforts to reclaim disenfranchised communities and expand active participation in democracy.

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