Five Decades of Posters Protesting Police Violence

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The names George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are powerfully omnipresent today, but the issue of police violence at home and abroad echoes throughout the decades—and there have long been forces opposing it.

As Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Center writes, “The current struggles against police violence and state repression by organizations such as Hands Up United and Black Lives Matter are part of a long history of resistance, which is often documented in graphics produced by the activists, artists and organizers engaged in these efforts. Posters tell of domestic and international efforts to challenge police brutality, and are one of the most effective tools for revealing these often-hidden or forgotten stories.”

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics is an activist archive of more than 90,000 posters from the 1800s onward, and with the exhibition “To Protect & Serve: 5 Decades of Posters Protesting Police Violence,” they have assembled an essential collection of just that.

Presented by CSPG founder and executive director Carol Wells and curator Sherry Frumkin, the show gathers art from coast to coast across the U.S., as well as Mexico, Bangladesh, and around Europe and Africa. From works addressing profiling to the prison pipeline, the posters speak vital truths.

A Zoom panel discussion around the show is set for 4 p.m. Sept. 17, and the exhibition can be viewed by appointment—and via the excellent digital collection that can be found here.

Below are nine items featured in the collection.

Black Panther Party, A Call to the People!, 1969. Silkscreen. Los Angeles, CA.
Fireworks Graphics, L.A. 84’ … Official Olympics Police State, 1984. Silkscreen. Los Angeles, CA.
Alicia Nauta, End Police Brutality, 2015. Silkscreen. Ontario, Canada.
Walter Cruz and Black Lives Matter, #Say Her Name, 2016. Digital Print. New York, NY.
Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade, Stop FBI Harassment of Ogala Sioux Indians of Pine Ridge South Dakota, 1975. Offset reproduction of linocut original. San Francisco, CA.
Josh Yoder, In Solidarity with Standing Rock, 2016. Digital print. Brooklyn, NY.
Fireworks Graphics, Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, I Don’t See an American Dream, I See an American Nightmare, 1992. Offset. Berkeley, CA.
Dignidad Rebelde, Inkworks Press, Solidarity With Ferguson, 2014. Digital print. Berkeley, CA.
Mark Vallen, To Protect and Serve the Rich—Jail the Homeless, 1987. Silkscreen. Los Angeles, CA.