Enzi Tanner didn’t watch the trial of Derek Chauvin. Even as the jury returned guilty verdicts Tuesday afternoon on all three counts that Chauvin was charged with — second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter — the community safety organizer at Jewish Community Action had been thinking of issues bigger than the result.
The April 11 killing of Daunte Wright by a now-charged Brooklyn Center police officer only strengthened Tanner’s resolve.
“My biggest concern before was in focusing solely on the trial, it makes this about one incident,” Tanner said. “It’s about that nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25. And that’s what it ends up being about, and not the broader system. Even in the trial, people are arguing that Derek Chauvin is a rogue police officer, that he’s not typical. And he is.”
Tanner argues that people being afraid of what will happen if public safety is transformed is part of what is driving the lack of change. This is why he’s putting together a workshop for JCA on anti-Black racism, fear, and the need to be secure.
“We have a narrative in this country about anti-Black racism and fear, and it allows for that confusion between security and actually being secure,” Tanner said. “Fear is a physical reaction, it’s not just a psychological thing. When we watch scary movies, we actually react to that, so getting in tune with that, and our initial reactions, I just think that’s important.”
For Tanner, as a Jew of Color, the state of policing and public safety in the country is the intersection of his work as an organizer and who he is as a person.
“This last week actually provided more opportunities and more clarity than before,” he said. “Before the murder of Daunte Wright and around the trial, we’re already planning and trying to work on some political education pieces on what’s next, what to do.”
A training this past Sunday started tackling some of the difficult conversations that come around the topic of reimagining public safety. A portion of the training included about 20 minutes of breakout rooms with scenarios of how to practice having conversations about policing, and what it could look like.
“With the trial, particularly more broadly on a national level, I think it already put the emphasis on what transforming community safety looks like,” he said.
What Is Defund?
In the wake of Floyd’s killing last year, a movement to defund the Minneapolis Police Department gained traction. Tanner explains that what “defund” means depends on who you ask. But to him — it means the middle ground between reform and abolition.
“You have folks who want to reform the system, but that takes money, right? When you want to reform, you’re saying that you want to put money into training, you want to put money into it reteaching resources,” he said. “Folks who want to defund, it’s this middle ground. It’s saying that we have enough resources as a community to provide for what we need. And as of now, all of our resources have been allocated to one basket.”
Tanner gave the examples of Brooklyn Center, where 41 percent of the city budget goes to the city’s police department, and the city of Minneapolis spending millions to fortify the city — and that was before Wright was killed.
“What it’s really saying is, what happens if we allocate some of these resources, because the police have shown us that they’re not capable or able, or just not equipped to handle,” he said.
“When you talk about defunding, you’re talking about reallocating, and as you’re talking about reallocating, to me it actually opens up the world to dreaming of what’s possible. How can we imagine a world in a society that we’ve never seen? And it’s scary as hell.
“I just keep imagining our ancestors being at the Red Sea and being like, ‘Okay, you go,’ ‘No, you go first.’ And then everyone else is like, ‘this is a really bad idea, y’all. We don’t even know what’s over there. We haven’t even seen it before.’ And I feel like, in many ways, we get a chance to do this, make mistakes, learn and grow.”
Regardless of the conviction, Tanner said justice isn’t done.
“None of those is justice,” he said. “There is no justice. Because there is no redemption or repair in a cage.”