It is almost difficult to remember how we talked about racial issues and police brutality before George Floyd’s murder was caught on video for the world to see. Fury ignited the nation–spilling over into the streets, resulting in the largest protests this nation had ever seen. It sparked an ongoing conversation that questions our country’s values and challenges the fundamental power structure.
Are we really okay with half our city’s budget funneled into law enforcement? Are we really just willing to accept that there are more cops in NYC’s neighborhood schools than nurses, guidance counselors and social workers combined? Who tf is in charge of this dystopia here?
This Friday will be the official two month mark since George Floyd’s death.
And a lot has changed. After the initial shock and subsequent outrage, we are experiencing the empowering direction that the aftermath of tragedy can sometimes take. We are trying to sort through the rubble and strategize our next steps forward. Strategically organize. Strategically donate. Strategically protest. Strategically hold those accountable. Strategically define what it is that we want. It’s a familiar rally cry– just under a different name. And it’s called “defunding the police”.
“Defunding the police” is frequently misunderstood and misconstrued. Even well-intentioned liberals imagine crime running rampant: unanswered 911 calls, untouched folders of missing children, pedophiles roaming the streets free.
Not really. While the Defund the Police movement’s support has grown significantly, its agenda is one that has been around for decades: to divest resources away from law enforcement and into social interventions that prevent crimes before they take place. It means ending the drug war, which has consistently been shown to target young men of color. It means seeking alternatives to policing and reimagining community safety moving forward. Although mainstream media reporting has dwindled since the initial days of the protests, many thoughtfully organized agendas and energized demonstrations are still here and still going strong.
In Los Angeles, a group of local activists released what they call a “People’s Budget” for L.A. which calls out LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to invest in black communities, fund public education, teachers, social workers, provide shelter food, and medical care for vulnerable populations, and to fortify a city in the midst of a global pandemic.
In Louisville, Kentucky, hundreds of protesters continue to call for justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year old EMT first-responder who was gunned down while she was sleeping in her own bed. Protesters have continued to engage with their country’s elected leaders, many of whom had ignored the 10 million signatures calling to convict Breonna’s murders, to get with the fucking program.
In New York, Jamal Bowman, a progressive wins New York’s 16th congressional district against long-time corporate neoliberal democrat. Bowman pushes for environmental justice, health justice, racial justice, education justice–amidst mounting fear and realization of the fragility of life but the power of collective efficacy.