Our Statement on the Murder of Walter Wallace Jr. by the Police
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
We are saddened, scared, and angered by the police murder of Walter Wallace Jr. We hold all of these emotions but are not surprised. This past year showed us that despite what decision-makers say, black lives do not matter to the police and the systems they uphold.
911 was called to help Mr. Wallace and his family with a mental health emergency. Instead of receiving the help he needed, Mr. Wallace was murdered in front of his mother. And his mother lost her son. Children lost their father. A community now feels less safe, fearing that the slightest wrong move can get someone shot when the police are present.
We are seeing our own people get killed, knowing it could be one of us next. That's the scary part - that we can be here one day and get shot and killed by a cop the next for no reason at all.
Philadelphia already has its struggles. Not so good school systems. Drugs and poverty. Many people are already facing hardships. But the police seem to increase these challenges, not reduce them. We believe the abolition of police needs to happen.
We understand that what happened to Mr. Wallace is part of a system. A system where police have too much power. A system where the police protect some people, but not all. They treat people differently based on race. Policing is linked to this country's long history of oppressing and criminalizing black and brown people. A history that sees black and brown folks as threats who should be controlled and intimidated. The system is racist - plain and simple. It upholds white privilege and encourages the abuse of power.
Instead of a system that polices us, we need a system that treasures and empowers our families and communities. We need alternatives to the police. We need counselors, mental health supports, investigation services, community leaders, and block captains. People should not have to be experts in dealing with crime, mental health, and other community problems. We should have people we can trust to help us with those things. We believe community members should be trained and given resources to make the city safer. They would live on our blocks and know more about the individuals living there. Instead of calling the cops, they can ease the conflict if it's not dangerous.
As an organization, we want a different system for education. Our Police Free Schools campaign is a push to remove police from all schools because they do way more harm than good. Students should not feel like criminals walking into school. Schools should have books and computer labs before they have metal detectors and surveillance cameras.
Mr. Wallace's murder will touch the lives of everyone in this city, whether they know it or not. We already see people standing up for what's right and continuing the fight for a new world that cherishes Mr. Wallace and his family instead of seeing them as threats. It is sad to see this happen after all the protests this summer. Changes are needed - it feels like we're going backward instead of going forward as a city.
The Philadelphia Student Union will continue to stand in this moment and lead with young people's experiences. One person can't change a community by themselves, but a community can change itself and the world together.