Since our break-in was noticed on Tuesday, we’ve received more publicity and attention than we have in our entire two years of operation. This is both heartwarming and troubling. While we appreciate everyone’s generosity in reaching out, and we’re glad to have your support, we’re disappointed that it’s a negative event that has brought The Community Spoke! to the attention of the greater public.
I have personally turned down two television interviews in as many days and we’ve been mentioned in numerous blogs and online media sources. It’s becoming hard to distinguish between genuine concern and sensationalism in the responses to the break-in at our space. One question that has been asked by those concerned as well as those wishing to capitalize on our loss is “why have you chosen not to involve the police?”
The simple answer is that involving the police is at odds with our established points of unity. We have written and agreed that “we seek to challenge the root causes of social and environmental injustice by creating community-based alternatives and fostering a spirit of mutual aid” and that “our community workshop and mobile repair stations are safe spaces free from oppression, violence and weapons.” The police are an organization that doles out oppression and violence and we as a community can do better.
There are reasons that we have chosen to exclude the police from the Spoke that are deeper and more complex. We have done a radical thing by offering a free service. Many have told us that it’s unsustainable and unreasonable to do what we have done. We’ve never tried to adhere to social norms in our work but we’ve been able to help our constituency in some dramatic ways, and they have helped us grow. This is fostering a spirit of mutual aid. We’ve done this as a community and have never looked for outside help. We all can rebuild The Community Spoke! as a community without the police. We feel that the police will interfere with our mission to provide a free and important service to those who decide to use it. To us this is more important than recovering our stolen property or “bringing those responsible to justice.”
What service can the police provide? Do we actually want the police to target, question, and harass the youth of color of Jamaica Plain on behalf of the Spoke? Would that really help us build a community? Is punishing the people responsible what we want? Is TCS! still a safer space if there is a police presence? Questions like these must be asked when dealing with an event where a crime has been committed. It is, of course, a visceral reaction to call the police, but this could have dire consequences for the folks we serve. We’ve been taught to think that someone who chooses not to deal with the police is guilty of a crime or is hiding something. We need to shed this kind of thinking and understand that communities belong to the people that exist within them. We do not want to fracture the relationships we’ve built through suspicion, aggression, racism, and all the other things the police stand for. The concept of true justice extends far beyond the realm of law.
I feel confident that our stolen bikes will turn up eventually, and if they don’t we will find new ones. Our place within our community is not so easily secured. If you would like to help us begin a new chapter we will gladly accept your help and ideas, but please respect our wishes as far as dealing with the police.
We don’t often make political statements and we strive to welcome all regardless of ideology. I understand that not all share our views. We are genuinely grateful for everything that the spoke has become and everyone that has helped us along the way.
I would like to address some of the rumors that have circulated the internet. If you are a media source and have reported incorrectly, please make these corrections.
-We were not victims of robbery, we were victims of burglary. There is a very big distinction between these two terms.
-Most of our tools were not stolen. We moved all remaining tools and parts to storage. Photographs of our toolboard empty were taken after our move to illustrate our frustration with having to close and our shop being empty.
We have heard from many people that are angry with the thieves. We ask that if our bikes are seen that you please not respond with violence.
-Alex and TCS!