June 2020 and the world (largely the Western world, particularly North America and England) has started to open to their eyes to the reality that the police are not “the good guys.” First some statistics from Canada and The United States before we get into the history of police.

Burning cop car by Caitlin Carter at Blackbrush Tattoo Studio.
ACAB cop skull by Matt E at World Tattoo Studio and Scrimshaw.

In the US, police kill more than 1000 people a year. Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed than white people, and are 1.4 times more likely to be UNARMED during these killings. In Canada the numbers are harder to find, though police have killed close to 500 people that we know of since the year 2000, and the number has been climbing yearly.

New School pig cop by Fatyna Tattoo.

Looking specifically at Toronto, an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than a white person. While Indigenous people are persecuted by police in Canada at a larger percentage than any other race, black people are also targets for police violence. Again looking at Toronto, 18 black men and one black boy were among the 52 people killed by police in Toronto alone from 2000-2017. Of those cases only 7 police officers faced charges and only 1 was found guilty.

ACAB tattoo done at The Black Drama in Toronto.

As of 2015 the US makes up only 5% of the worlds population, but 21% of the world’s prisoners. Land of the free? Not even close. Black people in the US are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white people. Black women do twice the amount of time in prison than white women for the same crimes. Click here to learn more about incarceration in the US.

Cute protester by Vonmal21 in Toronto.

Meanwhile in Canada, Indigenous people make up only 4.5 precent of the population, but make up 25% of the male prison population, and 35% of the female prison population.

Sign language ACAB by worms.tattoo at Studio 344.

Now let’s look at where police actually come from. Spoiler alert, they have never been there to “protect and serve.”

1312 gap filler by Saskia Santa Sangre

In the US, the institution of slavery and the control of minorities and immigrants are the two biggest reasons why police exist in America today. Slave Patrols and Night Watches were both created to control BIPOC. These date back to 1636, and possibly earlier. These were groups of men who would search for escaped slaves, and were meant to protect colonizers from the Native Americans they were murdering at an alarming rate. These groups built on oppression and racism later became official police in the US during the 1830’s and were/are still extremely violent, particularly towards minorities, including BIPOC and people from the LGBTQ community.

Cute FTP and ACAB matching tattoos by Gem.tattoos

In Canada, the story is almost exactly the same. Canadians might like to think our country has less racism than the US but both our countries were built on it, and both are still suffering because of it. Like the US, Canadian police came from groups of people much like the Night Watches and Slave Patrols in the US. At the time Canada also had slaves, and was also in the middle of the mass genocide of Indigenous peoples. By the 1830’s these groups turned into official police forces, and though slavery was abolished in 1834 in Canada, black and Indigenous people were already associated with crime in the white eye. Meaning simply existing as a BIPOC put you at risk of police and white brutality in Canada just as much as the US.

Burning cop car by Natasha at All Sacred Edgewater

Tattoos have long been an underground art form, being made illegal numerous times throughout history, and is still illegal in some countries today. While in the West and North America in particular, tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream, they are still most popular in alternative scenes, and particularly with people who generally lean farther left politically (of course there are exceptions). Therefore anti-establishment and anti-police tattoos have existed for a long time, and will continue to exist.

Cop beatings by Vasiliy Stadler.

Anti-police tattoos are most often done in American traditional style, black work, or ignorant style.

Ignorant style anti-police tattoo by Janky Doodlez

To read more about the history of police oppression and violence in North American please click here, here, or here.

Love Mom Hate Cops by Kim Bendig

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