Southside, We Outside: Policing and Placemaking in Historic Jamaica, Queens, New York
The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, commonly known as “The Kerner Commission” after its chair Otto Kerner, was assigned by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to report on the causes of urban uprisings over the course of four consecutive summers. ‘Rioting’ took place in 150 American cities and resulted directly from police violence against African Americans. The report concluded that the nation was moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal. Fifty years later, urban (and suburban) uprisings following police murders again illuminate the trajectory that the Kerner Commission cautioned against. Protests over several summers challenging excessive police use of force, police violence, and the role of police in enforcing structural racism in the U.S., culminated in 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have since taken place around the world.Developing a qualitative study of policing in the Jamaica section of Queens County, New York seeks: 1) to better understand the ways in which policing and police violence in urban communities have been contested during the post-1968 era of massive demographic, political, economic, and cultural change and 2) to investigate how and why the American “War on Drugs” has emerged and police power has expanded and the ways this historic process has shaped Black American neighborhoods, politics, and subjectivity. The findings of this study deepen our understandings of the American police-community dialectic by centering Black agency, politics, and press. Guided by critical discourse analysis and “conceptual metaphor theory,” data is drawn from Black Press, White Press, the archives, and civic organization membership, to examine discourse on protests, civic, and political action, following the historic killings of 10-year-old Clifford Glover in 1973, and 23-year-old Sean Bell in 2006. This study’s recovery of the collective memory of Clifford Glover is the most extensive social science treatment of the first murder trial of an on-duty police officer in New York City history. Linking this largely forgotten past to the innovation of Tactical Narcotics Teams (TNT) in southeast Queens, following the 1988 assassination of 103rd Precinct officer Edward Byrne, reshapes the study of mass incarceration.