What’s Next? There is much to be gleaned from a movement able to synthesize the structural inequities of both policing and public infrastructure through targeting a single institution. Both within and far beyond the scope of direct action and political organizing, the FTP movement serves as a major learning opportunity not only for organizers and activists, but for planners and policymakers alike. Abolition, both as a practice and as a tool, seeks to examine oppressive structural entities, while proposing solutions grounded distinctly away from those structures. Similarly, urbanists are also tasked with the work of envisioning more equitable and sustainable models for our cities. However, unlike abolitionists, it is not always the expectation that planners and policymakers will envision cities in a way that is entirely separate from the systemic and structural injustices on which the cities themselves were originally built. Further, it is often the case that police and prison abolition are not regarded as urbanist issues, as much as they are seen as the struggles of social and political movements. During the Uprisings of 2020, many discussions took place in cities across the United States, examining how we might begin defunding the police and start reallocating that money towards community resources. These conversations offered a glimpse into what the roles of planners and policymakers in abolitionist struggles might be, and additionally offered the important opportunity to consider abolitionist struggles as urbanist issues.
FTP’s political analysis and movement ideology also provided the invaluable tool of allowing individuals to detangle their imaginations from capitalism itself. Even when progressive non-profits and institutions assert and project their own imaginations for the future of our cities, the very structures under which they operate exist within the same capitalist system that seeks to suppress true liberatory expansion of the imagination. On the contrary, FTP’s Principles of Unity and practices of community care demonstrated that, as individuals and communities, we in fact hold the power to look after and educate one another. Rather than waiting for these institutions to realize, or take action on, injustice, FTP demonstrated that as communities and individuals, we possess our own agency and ability to take action. Be it engagement in a fare strike or attending a speakout on the MTA’s debt, we break down the barriers between communities and the institutions that hold power over and around them. In envisioning a city in which transportation is free and accessible, and in which police do not roam our streets, we must first become empowered to imagine the alternatives in order to actualize change. FTP exhibited that we can develop our own frameworks for thinking, for educating one another, and also for taking care of one another, all while existing outside frameworks provided by the state. As Audre Lorde wrote in 1984, “...the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never allow us to bring about genuine change… In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action.” FTP tangibly encouraged engagement in visionary thinking, prompting individuals to consider what sort of tools we might use to dismantle the proverbial house (Lorde, 2007, Saffore, Interview on January 30, 2021).
FTP additionally provided a framework with which to view both police violence and a fractured public transportation system as structural, systemic issues. As opposed to simply existing as individual incidents of violence and or infrastructural misfortunes, the political analysis provided by the movement allowed for a full examination of the colonialist and white supremacist practices which brought both the police and our public infrastructure to where they are today. While the MTA provides optimal grounds for conversations around the intersections of police violence and infrastructural inequity in New York, this structural lens also prompts individuals to begin considering these issues as they exist within a myriad of other New York City institutions. Large scale crises, from the pandemic, to police violence, to Hurricane Sandy, have all laid bare the structural inequities in much of New York’s institutions and public infrastructure. When considering other entities in New York City alone, public housing, city hospitals, prisons, and even City Universities are sites which bear the same consideration, analysis, and action that FTP engaged with in regards to the MTA. Rather than limiting the tools and ideology of this movement solely to issues surrounding the MTA, FTP both prompts and allows for an expansion of thinking as it may apply to other institutions and circumstances throughout New York City and beyond (Reed, Interview on February 22, 2021).
We may glean from FTP the importance of building a “solid political analysis and social movement infrastructure” through which to engage with and resist future crises. Such actions are preventative as much as they are preparatory; leading up to both the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Uprisings of 2020, we can examine how some of these robust networks for political action, education, and mutual aid were then implemented in full force in the face of crisis. In building community and creating frameworks for sustenance, care, and education that exist outside of the state, we not only seek to make police, prisons, and other oppressive institutions obsolete, but we prevent future harm and violence. Simultaneously, FTP’s existence as a formation teaches that in facing supposedly monolithic and everlasting state sponsored institutions, we must approach with a sense of flexibility and detachedness. In our flexibility, we become willing to grow, change, and learn from one another. This flexibility does not equate a lack of solid foundation in political analysis or community, but rather a knowledge that as white supremacy and other oppressive institutions “shapeshift,” so must we (Reed, Interview on February 22, 2021, Saffore, Interview on January 30, 2021). Lastly, we must realize that as we envision a future for our cities where police are abolished and public transportation is free and accessible, the budgeting and implementation of such visions are uncomplicated in comparison to the work of creating a collective mindset that allows the urban public to view the former not only as a possibility, but as a preference. As a result, the challenge lies in reframing our relations to one another through creating sustainable community models, as well as collective power and consciousness surrounding these issues. From the abolition of slavery, to the creation of the eight hour work day, to desegration, we already exist in a world that generations before us once denounced as an impossibility. In understanding that these efforts were generated from social and political movements made up of individuals who similarly dared to imagine a wildly different future for generations to come, we must in turn acknowledge that while the fight is far from over, what this generation imagines is not an impossibility. We must see the creation and fostering of our own frameworks as opportunities to learn, grow, and change. We must believe in the capacity of our imagination, and we must truly believe that we will win.