Things That Matter

This Is What Protesters Actually Mean When They’re Calling For Cities To ‘Defund The Police’

It’s no secret – the U.S. is at a reflection point. For generations, Black Americans have had to endure a system built to support and encourage white supremacy. Unarmed black man after unarmed black man have been harassed by white Americans and shot dead by police, leading to mass protests across the country.

However, this time seems different. The fatal arrest of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented, nationwide response that’s included peaceful protests, violent clashes involving overzealous cops, incidents of looting — and demands from activists to “defund the police.”

But what does “defund the police” mean? It’s not necessarily about gutting police department budgets.

George Floyd’s murder has led to a rapid shift in thinking about the role police play in cities across the country. The phrase “Defund the police” has entered the mainstream but it’s also stirred up plenty of controversy and become a rallying cry against Democrats for those on the right.

As the protests have gathered in strength and size, more and more people are talking about defunding, dismantling, abolishing, and reimagining what police forced should look like.

Defunding the police is shorthand for a divest and invest model: divesting money from local and state police budgets and reinvesting it into communities, mental health services, and social service programs – so that there is less need for actual police officers.

Most experts agree that police are currently tasked with too many different jobs – which contributes to outsized police budgets.

Credit: Roberto Schmidt / Getty

It’s no secret that America has come to rely on it’s more than 18,000 police agencies to do a lot more than actual police work. Officers these days are charged with fighting terrorism, acting as liaisons with homeless communities, working with children in school, responding to calls for mental health crises, performing welfare checks and social work, mediating domestic disputes, and responding to drug overdoses. Most of the time, officers have no training in any of these situations which can lead to conflicts.

As the police take on more work, their budgets have also grown substantially. The U.S. spends an estimated $100 billion on their police forces annually, with another $80 billion spent on incarceration. Policing typically accounts for one-third to 60% of American cities’ annual budgets. 

Those who call for police defunding say they would rather have some duties handled by nonviolent specialists trained in social work, education, or drug counseling.

From New York to LA, some cities are already taking measures to redirect police department budgets. But will it be enough?

For example, in New York City, the NYPD enjoys a $6 billion budget. Yes, that’s billion with a B. It’s easily takes up the largest chunk of the city’s budget. In fact, the NYPD gets more money than homeless services, housing development and upkeep, youth and community services, health and hospitals, and parks and recreation combined.  

In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday pledged to shift an unspecified amount of the NYPD’s $6 billion annual budget to “youth initiatives and social services,” saying, “Policing matters for sure, but the investments in our youth are foundational.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also said last week he would cut the city’s police budget by as much as $150 million to help fund $250 million for youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” — reversing an April plan to increase spending on the LAPD by 7 percent.

Why not just reform police and provide more training?

Credit: Ragan Clark / Getty

Those who are against defunding the police say that advocated should focus on legal oversight and reform. But it’s become obvious over decades of police brutality and systemic racism, that police reform and new regulations and laws cannot and have not stopped the police from illegally killing citizens.

You have to look no further than the city of Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered by the city’s police. The city had instituted major reforms in the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri protests and President Obama’s task force. New rules implemented by the city required bias and de-escalation training and the use of body cameras. It tightened its use-of-force standards, diversified its leadership, and started collecting demographic data. In 2015, it spent $4.75 million on a project led by procedural reformer Phillip Atiba Goff to strengthen the ties between the police and community.

And yet George Floyd, and so many others, are still dead.

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People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

Things That Matter

People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

@KRISTENCLARKEJD / TWITTER

Cities across the U.S. are seeing a new wave of unrest following the grand jury’s finding on the Breonna Taylor case. Emotions are high as people protest against the lack of charges against the officers who were involved in Taylor’s death.

Protesters are raising their voices after the decision not to charge all of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 when police raided her apartment. The 26-year-old ER technician was sleeping when the police executed a “no-knock” warrant. However, police had the wrong address and Taylor’s boyfriend, believe their lives were in danger, fired at the police. Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment that night.

Major cities across the country saw major demonstrations spurred by the anger against the justice system.

A grand jury found one officer responsible for wanton endangerment after firing his weapon into neighboring apartments. There were no charges tied directly to Taylor’s death. The lack of charges has angered activists and advocates who are seeking significant police reform to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

People have become hyper-aware of the issue and are paying attention to the outcomes.

Protest signs in different crowds show that the American people are paying attention. The Black Lives Matter movement became the cause at the forefront of American mentality since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and renewed energy into fighting to stop the disproportionate violence Black men, women, and children face at the hands of police.

Some motorists have turned violent against the protesters.

Video captured in both Denver and Los Angeles show vehicles driving through crowds of protesters. In Denver, the driver claims to have acted in self-defense after protesters surrounded his car. The driver claims that he did not intend to hurt anyone but reacted when protesters shattered his windshield.

In Louisville, police arrested the only Black woman in the Kentucky state legislature for protesting.

State Rep. Attica Scott was arrested for first-degree rioting, which is a class-D felony. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrested 24 people Thursday night while protesting the decision not to charge the officers. Rep. Scott was arrested with other and charged with first-degree rioting and two misdemeanors for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.

“Our call to action is to continue to make sure that the city of Louisville understands that we will not go away, that we will continue to demand the defunding of police and the dismantling of this police department because it’s corrupt from the inside out, from the bottom to the top,” Scott told NPR before the grand jury decision. “And it cannot continue to function in the way that it does.”

Taylor’s death has mobilized the nation with celebrities and politicians calling for justice.

The fight for racial justice and a systemic change to our justice and policing systems is ongoing. The people are tired of being scared and are taking a stand with their protests.

If you are out there protesting, send us your videos and photos so we can see your activism in action!

READ: Oprah Winfrey Honors Breonna Taylor With Historic O Magazine Cover

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Michelle Obama Recalled A Moment When Chicago Cops Accused Her Brother Of Stealing His Own Bike When He Was Just 10

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Michelle Obama Recalled A Moment When Chicago Cops Accused Her Brother Of Stealing His Own Bike When He Was Just 10

Paul Morigi / Getty

As most Black families in the United States know, growing up as a Black person is seen as a great threat in and of itself.

In a country where the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans is higher than that for any other ethnicity, it’s no wonder that this is true. Or, why learning to handle the police while Black is a lesson taught so prominently beneath the roofs of Black households.

In a recent episode of her podcast, Michelle Obama revealed that she and her brother Craig Robinson learned this lesson years ago in a confrontation with the police.

Speaking with her brother in her podcast, Obama recalled the day Robinson was accused of stealing his own bike.

Speaking with her brother, a former basketball coach, and her mother Marian Robinson about childhood and parenting, Obama brought up a moment in which Craig was stopped by a couple of police officers while riding his bike.

At the time, Robinson was about 10 or 11 years old and had been gifted the yellow ten-speed Goldblatt by his parents. While riding the bike, a police officer grabbed hold of it and refused to let go despite Craig’s pleas and protests that the bike was his.

“I was like ‘Oh, you got this all wrong, this is my bike. Don’t worry, this isn’t a stolen bike,’ and [the cop] would not believe me, and I was absolutely heartbroken. And I finally said to him, ‘Listen, you can take me to my house, and I will prove to you, this is my bike,” Robinson recalled.

Fortunately, Obama’s mother was home at the time and ushered Craig inside of the house, while she dealt with the police. As her son recalls, “she had that tight lip” as she confronted the officers who had accused her son of stealing his own bike.

Robinson revealed that she discovered the officers were friends with the people who had made the complaint about Craig stealing the bicycle and demanded they come to her house so that they could “admit [they] made a serious mistake.”

Robinson described the experience as a “heartbreaking” one at various times throughout the interview.

“I could tell [the cops] were trying to ask me questions that would trip me up,” he recalled. “If I wasn’t so sure that that bike was mine and showed any kind of reticence, I could see them taking me off to the police station, not calling mom until after I’ve been, you know, booked or whatever they do.”

At one point, Obama remarked that the story is particularly familiar with ones being experienced across the country, even today. “Nobody thinks about, you know, the fact that we all come from good families that are trying to teach values, but when you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being Black is, is a crime in and of itself, we have all had to learn how to operate outside of our homes with a level of caution, and fear, because you never know,” she recalled

Obama’s mother also described the experience as being “part of a culture” among police.

“Because those two policemen were Black. And they were acting exactly the same as any other policeman,” her mother remarked. “It’s almost like, this is what they thought they were, how they were thought they were supposed to act.”

All three family members noted how the incident is so familiar today. Despite the fact that decades have passed. “That’s the perfect example of what all of these young, Black people are dealing with now, because this was, almost fifty years ago?” Craig Robinson said.

Listen to the clip from the podcast here.

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