Meet Abolish @Agnes: The Public Safety Abolition Movement at Agnes Scott College

Name: Lydia Knowles ‘22

Pronouns: They/Them/ Theirs

 

Since the establishment of the American police system in the late 1700s, they have been used to legally criminalize and brutalize Black Americans under our system of government. They are implemented in Black neighborhoods, schools, and other places populated with Black Americans under the guise of “preventing crime and violence.” This has led to mass incarceration and violence against Black bodies. This occurrence is not new and is often justified by the majority because Black people are often assumed guilty before proven innocent. However, today in our digital age, these instances are being recorded more often to expose these inequalities, and conversations amongst Black Americans are being had more and more about what needs to be done. One subject that comes up in the discussion is defunding/ abolishing the police. Agnes Scott’s new student-led organization, Abolish @Agnes, is demanding just that. I had the opportunity to interview one of their founders, Lydia Knowles (they/them), and learn more about their organization.

 

Her Campus: Who Are you? What is your mission?

 

Lydia Knowles: Abolish @Agnes is a student-lead organization whose mission is centered around abolishing the police at Agnes Scott and replacing it with a more student-lead group that deals with the conflict that students feel public safety isn't necessary. [This student-lead group would make campus life] safer for students. The idea came about from different injustices occurring on campus by public safety. In one instance, a trans student was followed because they looked suspicious to public safety. People tend to call public safety on trans students and students and faculty if color. In one instance in 2019, they took 2 hours to respond to students who feared a gun threat. This event, for me, was what showed me that public safety was lacking in the way that they dealt with situations and catered to students as a whole. I knew it was time for a change.

 

HC: Who are your founders?

 

LK: Me, Arin Yost(they/ them or zie /zier), and Taeyonna(Taya) King(they/them). We don’t necessarily have official “titles” but we all work together as a collective.

 

HC: What was your process of forming the organization?

 

LK: Arin contacted Taya and me with the idea of creating an abolition movement. They then formed a group chat and reached out to people who would do design for the website and formulate ideas. We wanted to finish formulating before we reached out to others for help. We also started a book club to gain more knowledge of abolition and to get an understanding of what that means and how we can be involved in it. In the beginning, we received some pushback and misunderstandings from other students and orgs so we scrapped the group chat, regrouped, then reached out to the Coordinating Committee for Black Spaces (CCBS) and the NAACP, who we have a better relationship with, and decided to continue to develop before making it more public. Our organization later became less about students and more about a dedication to making the campus more student-led and community-based.

 

HC: What are the ways in which students have shown support?

 

LK: They showed their interest, Arin did a class with other students that were excited and they heard about what we did and after learning more about it, they became more interested. Knowing that people have an interest and a willingness to learn is enough support.

 

HC: What do you want the school to know about your org?

 

LK: We don't expect change to happen right away, that’s the biggest worry for me. I would love the school to know we don't expect, nor want, these changes to happen overnight. The queer students of color who feel unsafe or unhelped by public safety believe there are better ways that ensure their safety and their happiness on campus. There are better ways that are community-based and community-led that do a lot more than public safety will.

 

HC: What legacy do you hope to leave behind and where do you see this org in 5 years?

 

LK: I hope that this org is still going, that students are still supporting it, that this campus is a space where students feel heard, that they belong, that non-White students feel safe and heard and not simply brought out for “diversity points.”