Things That Matter

President Obama Warns About Political Backlash From Using Phrase ‘Defund The Police’

Update December 3, 2020

Americans protested in mass this summer against police brutality and racil injustice at the hands of police. George Floyd’s death sparked days of unrest in major cities across the country and “Defund The Police” became a common phrase. No, post-election, President Obama is arguing that a different phrase is needed for the idea.

President Barack Obama spoke recently and had some thoughts on “Defund The Police” and AOC’s place in Democratic politics.

“Defund The Police,” while a digestible size, oversimplifies a complex issue. President Obama argues that using that phrase has alienated voters and led to the 2020 election results.

“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund The Police,’ but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama told Peter Hamby on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”

Obama continues to say that activists need to adopt language that gets the message across in a clear way. Yet, the messaging has to leave no room to be misconstrued by a the other side.

President Obama is also championing more time and attention to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. President Obama is encouraging the Democratic Party to give AOC more space because she is bringing in and speaking to a much broader, younger base. His chief critique is that AOC was given so little time at the DNC. What we really need, according to President Obama, is more attention for the younger members.

Original: 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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Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

Things That Matter

Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images

The family of a man who was shot in the back and killed by a Mexican soldier is demanding better support from the Mexican military after officials offer them one million pesos, or about $49,000 USD.

Officials say that the Guatemalan man was in retreat from a military checkpoint near the southern border, when they admit that a soldier wrongfully shot at the man killing him.

Military officials are offering $1 million pesos to family of the Guatemalan man the army murdered.

The Mexican Army is offering 1 million pesos (about $49,000 USD) in compensation to the family of a Guatemalan man who was shot and killed by a Mexican soldier along a stretch of Mexico’s southern border.

The man, Elvin Mazariegos, 30, was killed by the army in the state of Chiapas by a soldier who opened fire on a car in which he was traveling with two other people.

According to Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the soldier shot at the vehicle as it tried to escape in reverse from a military checkpoint. He said the decision to shoot was an “erroneous reaction” because the military personnel hadn’t come under attack. The solider who shot Elvin Mazariegos was turned over to the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The family is asking for more support since Mazariegos was the family’s sole income earner.

Olga Mazariegos told the newspaper Reforma that the Mexican army had offered a single 1-million-peso payment to her brother’s family. But the family is also demanding monthly maintenance payments for Mazariego’s daughters, aged 9 and 5, and 2-year-old son, she said. She said their father was the sole income earner in his family.

“What we want is monthly maintenance, but they say that they’ll only give [a single payment of] approximately half a million quetzales,” Mazariegos said. At today’s exchange rate, 1 million pesos is in fact 377,300 quetzales.

The slain man’s sister said the army’s proposed payment will be insufficient for the man’s widow to maintain her family. “She’s left alone with her three children; what happened to my brother is not fair,” she said, adding that it was insulting for the army to say that his life was worth 1 million pesos.

Mazariegos murder comes as police brutality gains greater attention across Mexico.

Credit: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Residents near the border (including Guatemalans) have demanded justice. About 300 angry residents detained 15 other soldiers also deployed near the border. Nine soldiers were released about three hours after they were detained, while the others were set free in the early hours of Tuesday morning after Mexican officials reached a deal with the civilians to provide them with “economic reparation” for the killing. The army chief didn’t reveal how much money was paid to the angry residents.

The killing of Mazariegos came just two days after the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested by municipal police in Tulum, Quintana Roo.

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Police In Tulum Killed A Refugee By Kneeling On Her Neck And Mexicans Want Justice

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Police In Tulum Killed A Refugee By Kneeling On Her Neck And Mexicans Want Justice

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

So many of those attempting to reach the United States – or even Mexico in some cases – are already fleeing extreme violence, poverty, and fear. Refugees from Honduras and El Salvador (among other countries) are hoping to find a better life faraway from the corruption and danger that they face in their home countries.

But what happens when those same people fleeing violence in their home countries are met with state-sponsored violence on their journey to a better life? Unfortunately, at least one refugee, 36-year-old Victoria Esperanza Salazar, a mother of two teenage daughters, has lost her life while hoping for a better one.

Four police officers are in custody after the killing of a woman from El Salvador.

Four municipal police officers are in custody and under investigation for murder following the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested in Tulum.

Video footage shows a female officer with her knee on the back of 36-year-old Victoria Esperanza Salazar, a mother of two teenage daughters who was living in Tulum on a humanitarian visa.

In the footage, Victoria, who was apparently arrested for disturbing the peace, can be heard moaning in pain and is seen writhing on the road next to a police vehicle as she was held down for more than 20 seconds. Three male police are also present, one of whom appears to help the female offer restrain Victoria. Footage then shows officers drag her limp body into the back of a police truck.

Many are comparing Victoria’s murder to that of George Floyd.

Many in Mexico are comparing Victoria’s death to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer, who also died pinned under an officer’s knee. Video shared on social media shows a police officer leaning on Salazar’s head and neck and she cries out, and then goes limp. Officers then drag her body into the back of a police truck.

Mexican officials have largely condemned the officers’ actions and the Attorney General said that the officers — three men and one woman — will be charged with femicide. The charge of femicide carries a penalty of no less than 40 years in prison. The police actions violated the national law on the use of force, the Attorney General’s Office said. 

Victoria’s death comes as millions of Mexican women demand that the authorities do more to combat gender violence in Mexico, where an average of 11 women are killed every day. Her alleged murder also occurred as Mexican authorities ramp up enforcement against mainly Central American migrants traveling through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.

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