ACAB, “All Cops Are Bastards,” alludes to the systemic nature of police violence
After collaborating with Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists on a mural reading “More Justice, More Peace,” city officials informed artists that part of the mural would be removed after receiving complaints from VicPD. With a few hours notice, however, a group organized to protect the mural.
As reported by Victoria Buzz, the City of Victoria planned to take down part of the mural after VicPD alerted them that ACAB, which is visible in the “S” of the mural, stands for “All Cops Are Bastards.”
“While we are not surprised that our letter was singled out in the mural… every single letter holds within it the point of view and lived experience of BIPOC creatives across this land,” artists Kaiya Jacobs and Karmella Beneditto said in a statement. “The irony of police mobilising to censor our work as Black and Afro-Indigenous artists is not lost on us.”
The Capital later reported that protestors stayed in the square for six hours until the City promised to work with the artists and the African Heritage Association of Vancouver Island.
ACAB is a popular BLM slogan and speaks to the systemic nature of police violence. It is commonly used against the bad apple rhetoric, which suggests that only some officers are bad and therefore systemic change or abolition is not necessary.
The artists say that their intention was to create a public art project that drew on their histories and identities as Black and Indigenous folks, while also implicitly calling for more action against racism and police brutality.
“Our piece focuses on joy and peace and pleasure,” Jacobs and Beneditto said. “We do not wish to appeal to the white gaze. Our goal is not to be palatable to our oppressors. We wanted to bring playfulness and light to our politics.”
ACAB says that the system is bad, not just some cops. The bushel is bad, not just some apples.— Kate Elizabeth Korte (@katekorte) August 27, 2020
VicPD found this slogan offensive and requested the city remove the mural. Here's the letter, which also features sunflowers: pic.twitter.com/e4KsnQFxRY
VicPD took offense to the inclusion of ACAB in the mural.
“I fully support the spirit behind the mural.” Police Chief Del Manak said in a statement. “Justice is not justice if it does not include all members of society. Excluding one group [police] through harmful words seems counter to the very spirit of the mural itself.”
Victoria is not the only city to see BLM artists paint messages on streets. Multiple U.S. cities have massive BLM murals painted across multiple blocks.
One particular mural on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles is set to become permanent. After city crews started removing it, LA city councilman Mitch O’Farrell stopped them. The mural reads “all black lives matter,” and includes the colours of the LGBTQ+ flag and the Transgender Pride flag.
In Calgary, a proposed mural project was delayed until 2021, after the project organizers faced “violent vitriol, racism, and threats” for wanting to replace an existing downtown mural.
In June, a group of BIPOC women constructed a public art installation at Centennial Square to draw attention to BLM. The art featured pieces of paper with the names of Black and Indigenous folks killed by police, along with chalk with various BLM messages. This also followed a protest that took over Centennial Square, with the crowd spilling out onto nearby streets and supporting BLM from inside the nearby parkade.
The BLM movement has brought continued and sustained attention on police violence and systemic racism.
In response, on July 16 the Victoria city council unanimously approved a motion to ask that the VicPD stop the practice of street checks. Manak, however, said these would continue despite the ask because he sees them as essential for public safety.
There have been other local changes brought about by the BLM movement, such as the UVSS’ lobbying for SaanichPD to be dismantled.
The Martlet’s earlier reporting touched on these initiatives in more detail.