War Prevention Initiative: Recent police killings in the United States show that authentic security emerges from peacebuilding, not militarization.

War Prevention Initiative: Recent police killings in the United States show that authentic security emerges from peacebuilding, not militarization.   

February 8, 2023; Contact Kelsey Coolidge at kelsey@jubitz.org   

Portland, OR – At the War Prevention Initiative, we are outraged by recent police killings in the United States. The murders of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, and forest defender Tortuguita in Atlanta, Georgia, point to the continued prevalence of militarized security and the disproportionate harm it inflicts on Black, Brown, and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).  

 While these events are not directly connected, they are both outcomes of a militarized security system in the U.S. Tyre Nichols’ death showcases the degree of lethal force available to police, compounded by mandates for “aggressive, ’zero tolerance’, and pretextual tactics with little oversight or apparent thought to the disruption they cause to communities.” Tortuguita’s death is emblematic of state violence against a nonviolent resistance movement—in this case, a popular movement in opposition to the planned construction of a “Cop City” (a “sprawling training facility for police and firefighters”) in the Weelaunee (or South River) Forest. This forest is one of the largest remaining green spaces in Atlanta and is in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Those living in this neighborhood largely oppose its construction (upwards of 98%).

Taken together, these events remind us just how far most of the U.S. is from realizing authentic security that emerges from an embrace of peacebuilding practices. According to Mapping Police Violence, police killed more people in 2022 than in any other year in the past decade. Yet, police funding has increased in many U.S. cities supported by growing public fear around an uptick in violent crime. These same fears are what partially motivated support for the construction of Cop City in Atlanta despite its environmental and racial ramifications. Militarized understandings of security are so deeply embedded in our culture that the immediate reaction of many people to an increase in violent crime is to want to strengthen armed responses. The potential of nonviolent alternatives to enhance security and protect communities is not as widely known or recognized, despite ample evidence that such alternatives can actually prevent violence and resolve conflict.      

 Peacebuilding works by addressing the context-specific drivers of violence; engaging in nonviolent de-escalation, mediation, and civilian protection tactics (as opposed to using weaponry and force); and prioritizing individual and community well-being. Groups like Cure Violence and Nonviolent Peaceforce operate in many U.S. cities (including Atlanta) and work by strengthening community protection practices, de-escalating conflict before violence breaks out, or providing counseling services and other resources to community members after violence has taken place to interrupt cycles of violence.

These organizations are just two examples of peacebuilding practice and a nonviolent alternative to a system of militarized security. Initiatives like these are woefully underfunded, especially when compared to funding allocated for security services that rely on the use of violence, force, and domination. There is a better way to provide safety and security without the loss of human life or environmental destruction.


For more on police brutality:  

 For more on “Cop City” in the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta:  

For more on peacebuilding: