Becoming Abolitionists

Derecka Purnell


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Verso Books
12 October 2021
ISBN: 9781839766671
320 pages

From the publisher

The case for defunding the police.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing uprising, police abolition became a central demand for the black lives matter movement.

Derecka Purnell’s story starts in St. Louis, where calling 911 was often the solitary and dangerous resort for any number of challenges in a deprived neighbourhood. Her political awakening follows the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the murder of Trayvon Martin and the protests and riots in her hometown, Ferguson, after the death of Michael Brown. Meeting organizers from all over the world, including Europe and South Africa, she is pushed to realize that the solution required is not better policing but the end of the policing itself.

Purnell’s life history and arguments make a powerful, passionate case for a society in which there is no place for state violence and racial repression. She confronts the history of policing as a means to capture runaway slaves and uphold white supremacy, a practice persisting today in the policing and murder of Black people, poor people, and disabled people on modern city streets. She argues that the worst of policing is the purpose of policing and that we need new systems to address the root causes of violence.

Becoming Abolitionists will inspire readers to create new communities where safety, equality, and real justice for all can thrive.

“With deep insight and moral clarity, Purnell shares her compelling journey of political education and personal transformation, inviting us not only to imagine a world without police, but to muster the courage to fight for the more just world we know is possible. Becoming Abolitionists is essential reading for our times.” – Michelle Alexander, bestselling author of The New Jim Crow