Montclair Area Solidarity Network holds event to discuss community safety
When the Montclair Area Solidarity Network called its Night Out for Safety and Liberation a “celebration of community,” they set out to make it just that.
Though the turnout was small, about 15 people, the group held conversations about safety through different avenues, like art, work sheets and fellowship over food. Meeting in Glenfield Park, the group provided blankets and picnic chairs as residents sat in a circle and discussed their personal experiences with how it looks when a community shows up for each other before calling outside resources, like the police.
The event was meant for the community to hold conversations about what safety would look like in Montclair without the police. It was hosted by the Montclair Area Solidarity Network, a collective of smaller organizations.
Aktion Kat Distro, Montclair Area Harm Reduction and Montclair Beyond Policing, members of the network, are mutual aid groups that support the Montclair community with such basic needs as food, clothing, medical supplies and financial assistance. Originating in 2020, the organizations started participating in local marches and video conferences about the importance of mutual aid in the wake of the racial protests that erupted throughout the country.
For nearly a year, MASN worked to develop a family-friendly way to introduce the idea of police abolition to Montclair. It was no coincidence that the event was held on the same night as National Night Out, an event held by police departments around the country to encourage residents to interact with law enforcement, said Erik Jacobson, event co-organizer. He added that he hoped MASN’s gathering would help people think “beyond the status quo.”
MASN wasn’t the only group holding conversations surrounding public safety on Tuesday. Cities such as Houston and Oakland also played host to Night Out for Safety and Liberation.
Though topics like abolition and defunding were briefly touched on, organizers made it a point to focus on what community members can do for one another rather than what police don’t do for them.
“What we're trying to establish is we're not against the police,” Maria Eva Dorigo said. “But we want a society where we don't need the police, and that is something that we need to discuss, because when you talk about safety, generally people think safety is equal to law enforcement.”
People from all demographics attended the event and participated in the activities, like “pod mapping,” which allowed residents to write out on work sheets the people they would call on if they experienced violence or harm.
Illustrator and comic artist Kevin Pyle created a banner with MASN’s slogan – “We Take Care of Us” – on the top and drawings that represented the group’s community food garden and community aid practices. In one illustration, a gun turns into a flower to showcase the nonviolent efforts that the group hopes to see one day as a result of raised awareness.
High schooler Nico Cooperman said he wanted residents of Montclair to know that the progressive town isn’t exempt from learning a thing or two from MASN about how to foster community-building.
“Even though Montclair is very progressive, and that's something that Montclair loves to say about itself, there's a lot of instances where the institutions fail,” Cooperman said. “And just because it's a progressive town doesn't mean these institutions that we have aren't flawed and couldn't use help.”