- A growing number of protestors condemning the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee and many other Black people are calling to defund the police, a concept long championed by advocates as a response to police brutality and anti-Black racism.
- Activists define defunding the police as relocating public funds away from policing, and towards community resources.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked about defunding the police on Instagram, and her response went viral.
Advocates working to deconstruct police brutality and anti-Black racism have long called to defund the police, and in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee and many other Black people by police, the concept has become a rallying cry among protestors. Activists and community organizations define defunding the police as moving public funds away from policing and incarceration, and investing instead in community resources.
After George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, organizations Black Visions and Reclaim the Block—which have long worked to defund the Minneapolis Police Department—launched a petition to the Minneapolis City Council. The petition called on council members to commit to four key aspects of defunding the police:
1. To never again vote to increase police funding or to increase the police department's budget.
2. To propose and vote for a $45 million cut from MPD's budget as the City responds to projected COVID-19 shortfalls.
3. To protect and expand current investment in community-led health and safety strategies, instead of investing in police.
4. To do everything in my power to compel MPD and all law enforcement agencies to immediately cease enacting violence on community members.”
The Guardian reports that at a subsequent community rally, the council "pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety.”
The Movement for Black Lives defines their "Invest-Divest" platform (opens in new tab) thus: "We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations." (Donate to Movement for Black Lives here. (opens in new tab))
Black Lives Matter, which launched a petition to #DefundThePolice (opens in new tab), explained, "George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point—an all too familiar reminder that, for Black people, law enforcement doesn’t protect or save our lives. They often threaten and take them." The petition reads, "We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive."
.@AOC's answer to "what does defund the police look like?" was "a suburb" and that is totally gonna be my answer from now on pic.twitter.com/JIlIfngMCvJune 11, 2020
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among the proponents of the call to defund the police, and a recent post on her Instagram story on the subject quickly went viral, after it was screenshotted and shared by Twitter user Ashley Quan. Asked, "What does an America with defunded police look like to you?" Ocasio-Cortez responded, "It looks like a suburb."
"Affluent white communities already live in a world where the choose to fund youth, health, housing etc more than they fund police," Ocasio-Cortez explained. "When a teenager or preteen does something harmful in a suburb (I say teen bc this is often where lifelong carceral cycles begin for Black and Brown communities), White communities bend over backwards to find alternatives to incarceration for their loved ones to 'protect their future,' like community service or rehab or restorative measures. Why don't we treat Black and Brown people the same way?
"Why doesn't the criminal system care about Black teens' futures the way they care for White teens' futures?" AOC continued. "Why doesn't the news use Black people's graduation or family photos in stories the way they do when they cover White people (eg Brock Turner) who commit harmful crimes?"
Read Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's full response to the question, "What does an America with defunded police look like to you?" below:
The good news is that it actually doesn't take a ton of imagination.
It looks like a suburb. Affluent white communities already live in a world where the choose to fund youth, health, housing etc more than they fund police. These communities have lower crime rates not because they have more police, but bc they have more resources to support healthy society in a way that reduces crime.
When a teenager or preteen does something harmful in a suburb (I say teen bc this is often where lifelong carceral cycles begin for Black and Brown communities), White communities bend over backwards to find alternatives to incarceration for their loved ones to "protect their future," like community service or rehab or restorative measures. Why don't we treat Black and Brown people the same way? Why doesn't the criminal system care about Black teens' futures the way they care for White teens' futures? Why doesn't the news use Black people's graduation or family photos in stories the way they do when they cover White people (eg Brock Turner) who commit harmful crimes? Affluent White suburbs also design their own lives so that they walk through the world without having much interruption or interaction with police at all aside from community events and speeding tickets (and many of these communities try to reduce those, too!)
Just starting THERE would be a dramatically and radically different world than what we are experiencing now.
Black Lives Matter
This article has been updated.
Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.
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