Emotions are running high in our country following the police killing of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. The usual political lines have been drawn, protests have filled the streets, and violent rioters and looters have run roughshod through our cities. There are too many moving pieces for a simple explanation of what’s happening on the ground, or for a simple political solution.
Enter Philadelphia native and activist Maj Toure.
“They’re calling it police brutality instead of terrorism and tyranny,” says Toure, founder of the organization Black Guns Matter. “Both sides are making it about whether it’s racial or not. The Left says blacks are disproportionately killed by cops, the Right says that police brutality isn’t that big of an issue. I don’t care if they’re white, black, Hispanic, or Asian, it’s wrong, and it’s happening to Americans. Period.”
It’s important to remember the policemen are the enforcement wing of the government, says Toure. “The conversation has devolved into statistics over how many people of whatever group are being brutalized. The reality is that the police force is over-militarized and acts in violation of the Constitution. It’s tyranny, bro. It’s tyranny.”
Toure has plenty of criticism for the usual political battle lines. On the Left, Toure asserts that “the Black Lives Matter movement has been hijacked and co-opted. It’s a very smart chess move. Now, every building reminds me of the Passover story from the Bible — they write BLM on their boarded up walls in the hopes that they’ll be left alone. Co-opted movements haven’t been explained enough.”
Toure, who ran for Philadelphia City Council last year as a Libertarian, sees the world through the principles of freedom and peace — if you’re violating someone else’s rights, you’re in the wrong, regardless of your skin color or uniform. In this spirit, he founded Black Guns Matter in 2015. The organization educates Americans in urban communities on their Second Amendment rights and responsibilities, trains them to be responsible firearms owners, and teaches peaceful conflict resolution. “In 2016, the year when [Black Guns Matter] did most of our work on conflict resolution in Philadelphia, the city had the lowest violent crime since the 1970s.”
“We’ve worked in fifty or sixty cities so far,” Toure recalls. “I’ll be doing twenty cities over the next few months, working with Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition. You’re seeing more and more people from urban America becoming more armed, and it’s at least in part because of the work that we’re doing.”
Toure firmly believes that a responsibly armed society is a more conflict-averse one. “Even though some of those guys in South Philly and Fishtown were saying some racial shit, whatever, but the reality is that their neighborhoods aren’t getting destroyed. And that’s because they’re armed.”
As a Second Amendment advocate, many conservatives have warmed to Toure, including Donald Trump Jr. But ever the libertarian, he holds the police to the same standards as he does everyone else with respect to peace and liberty. “Some Republicans claim that police brutality is a myth. That’s dumb. I’ve been beaten up by the police.”
Even though some of those guys in South Philly and Fishtown were saying some racial shit, whatever, but the reality is that their neighborhoods aren’t getting destroyed. And that’s because they’re armed.
“One unnecessary instance is too many.”
What political reforms might reduce these violations of freedoms by the police? “End that qualified immunity bullshit,” says Toure. “End no-knock raids — Rand Paul put something out for that. Those are steps in the right direction.”
Toure continues, channeling our Founding Founders: “If law enforcement can have LEOSA rights — which means they can carry concealed or open anywhere in the country — Americans should have that same right. And get rid of those police unions. It makes it much more difficult for horrible law enforcement officers to be removed because of unions. The guy that killed George Floyd had seventeen, eighteen complaints against him. That guy should not have been there anymore. When you start to feel like you’re going to get away with whatever because you’re the police, that’s how you get more of that overreaching Statist bullshit.”
Through Black Guns Matter, Toure teaches de-escalation tactics for both inter-civilian and citizen-police interactions. Between civilians, they emphasize pausing to evaluate, changing the tone with civility, and redirecting the conversation. When dealing with a law enforcement officer, they recommend giving the police the perceived position of power: “I politely ask the officer how he’d like to proceed. I’m Jedi mind-tricking him, because I’m telling him that I’m going to do what he wants, but in turn, I’m making him tell me what to do,” Toure summarizes.
Black Guns Matter also provides urban communities with political education. Toure thinks that “Just as you can’t have firearms training without a conversation about conflict resolution, you can’t have a conversation about the Second Amendment or the Bill of Rights without having a conversation about political education.”
Toure has been leading his organization for only a few years, and he wants to continue to light the fires of liberty in his own backyard.
“I’m going to get about 50,000 new people to become members of the Libertarian Party in Philadelphia over the next few years,” Toure declares. “So then we’ll get some hardworking, blue-collar, strong, objective people from the demographic that’ll set the tone. That’s what we need.”
His plan is undoubtedly bold. If Toure can turn the urban communities of Philadelphia into libertarian strongholds, all of us Philadelphians have something to look forward to.
Logan Chipkin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia and a contributor to Broad + Liberty. @ChipkinLogan