Since protests have erupted all over the world in response to police violence against Black people, cries to #DefundPolice have significantly grown.
“We call on localities and elected officials across the country to divest resources away from policing in local budgets and reallocate those resources to the healthcare, housing and education our people deserve,” reads the demands on M4BL’s website. “More officers, guns, jails and prisons are not a solution to longstanding problems of racial disparities, injustice and police violence.”
As people have hit the streets in masses to protest the deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, M4BL has promoted a Week of Action where people can find different ways to plug in on various issues. Along with defunding the police, M4BL has also demanded actions like immediate relief for Black communities, which have been disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus. They’ve also demanded the rights of protestors be protected.
Since the Week of Action began on Monday, various celebrities have signed on to a M4BL letter calling for the police to be defunded, including John Legend, Lizzo, Taraji P. Henson, The Weeknd, Common, Yara Shahidi, Jane Fonda and more.
The letter from M4BL reads:
“Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the US Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing ‘costs.'”
The letter then cited an Urban Institute study that found, “In 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase.” M4BL continued, “Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.”
Defunding the police is not a new concept, considering divestment-investment campaigns have been bubbling for years.
Just four years ago, hundreds of New York City activists convened in City Hall demanding the defunding of the New York Police Department and the distribution of reparations to victims of police brutality.
Soon, such demands started to make their way into the platform of people running for office. Janeese Lewis George is one example of someone who advocated defunding the police and she won her election. Despite various attempts by the opposition to vilify George, she won her city council seat in D.C. representing Ward 4.
“We’re told the institution of policing is intended to protect all of us from some suspicious menace, but the fact is that crime is a public health problem, not a battle of military opponents,” explained Lewis George, according to The Intercept. “The transformation of American police departments, especially the MPD, into military units trained to occupy the very communities promised protection is one of the greatest dangers to the future of urban life.”
Instead of police, Lewis George has advocated investing in resources like violence intervention programs. Various examples exist across the country including The Health Alliance For Violence Intervention.
One city has already made moves to defund the police since protests started erupting across the country over recent police shootings. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged that the city would cut $250 million from the police department’s budget and reinvest those funds “in jobs, in health, in education and in healing.” This occurred after Black Lives Matter activists and aligning groups demanded divestment from the Los Angeles Police Department, according to Independent.
As the movement to #DefundPolice grows, time will tell if other mayors and local officials will follow suit.
In an Instagram post celebrating Garcetti’s action “Insecure” star Kendrick Sampson said, “It’s working!!! This is not NEARLY enough but they are listening. Let’s keep pushing and not take no for an answer #DefundthePolice.”