Artist unknown, offset, 1967, Los Angeles
CSPG is excited to announce that we have just been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts to produce a timely new exhibition, To Protect and Serve? 50 Years of Posters Protesting Police Violence. The exhibition will premiere at the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in December 2017, and will then travel.
A series of high-profile deaths over the past two years has catapulted the issue of racist police violence and state repression into the national and international spotlight. But this is not a new problem. Years before police killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there was Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. In the 1970s, there was Eula Love and Ruben Salazar. In the 1960s there was James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. All were unarmed. All were killed by law enforcement. And these were just the handful that made headlines.
Videos of police brutalizing people are now too commonplace, yet the videotaped beating of Rodney King in 1991 made headlines around the world. The list of documented abuse by law enforcement is long...the list of unrecorded examples would be much longer.
Internationally, local police in the Mexican state of Guerrero have been implicated in the 2014 kidnapping, disappearance, and likely murder of 43 rural students. In Brazil, amidst preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Amnesty International estimates that police are responsible for 16% of homicides in Rio de Janeiro. Palestinians living in the occupied territories voiced their solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, drawing parallels between the heavily militarized and disenfranchised communities of Gaza and the highly policed black and brown communities in the U. S.
Many of today's headlines find tragic parallels in the past, including the massacre of hundreds of Mexican students ten days before the 1968 Olympics and the 1970 killings of students at Kent State University, Ohio, and Jackson State University, Mississippi. Posters tell these and many other too often forgotten stories.
Current struggles against police violence and state repression are a part of a long history of resistance, depicted in graphics produced by the artists, activists and organizers who participated in these struggles. Thanks to the Mike Kelley Foundation's inaugural Artist Project grant, To Protect and Serve? will continue CSPG's mission to reclaim the power of art to educate, agitate, and inspire people to action.