As law enforcement officers across the country continue to brutalize peaceful demonstrators in the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, support for defunding the police is rising as Americans become increasingly fed up with the institution's racism and violence.
"In moments of crisis, people want services and resources that go directly to help people rather than police that surveil, brutalize, and kill us," Black Lives Matter LA co-founder Melina Abdullah told the Guardian.
The murder of Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25 served as the catalyst for the uprising that has filled city streets around the nation with unprecedented numbers of protesters.
As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, polling this week shows a majority of Americans believe both the anger and the actions of the protesters are at least partially justified — including the burning of the Minneapolis Police Department Third Precinct building last week.
Activists have long called for defunding the police as part of the solution to the institution's myriad problems. Long seen as a fringe position by more mainstream liberals and conservatives, the call to defund is now seeing widespread support among the public and politicians.
We need to defund the police and make sure that money goes back into the communities that need it," said Cori Bush, a progressive candidate running for Missouri's 1st District House seat, in a statement. "We have to end the militarization of police, stop the racial profiling."
Alex Vitale, writer of the book "The End of Policing," said in an interview with The Nation Thursday that he believes the funding for police departments should instead be put toward community service jobs.
"The police department and the corrections department are always hiring and community centers aren't," said Vitale. "And when they do hire, it's at half the salary and half the benefits. So this budget battle is about getting cities to reprioritize how they deal with the very real needs of the most disadvantaged communities that are subjected to the most intensive policing."
Good cops, bad cops
A petition calling for re-allocating money from police departments to local health and education initiatives is gaining support. Launched by Black Lives Matter co-founder , the petition has been signed by such high-profile celebrities as John Legand, Megan Rapinoe, Lizzo , The Weeknd, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Jameela Jami, Yara Shahidi, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero and others. Celebrities also have put up bail money for arrested protesters.
Po\lice officers, too, are showing their support for the protesters — hugging, praying, and taking a knee with them. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen linked arms with them.
In Atlanta, officers in riot gear sent to form a line holding back protesters took their positions kneeling rather than standing.
But empathetic law-enforcement officers have been the exception, not the rule. The increasing support for defunding police comes as images and videos of police attacking peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders continue to spread across social media as demonstrations entered their 10th consecutive day Thursday.
According to Rolling Stone:
“As the protests continue around the country, activists in New York, where the police department’s budget is poised to swell to nearly $6 billion in 2021, and Los Angeles, where LAPD's funding was increased this year to $1.8 billion, are mounting their own defunding campaigns.
“The first step for anyone interested in pushing for a re-thinking of their city's priorities is to get involved in the budgeting process by attending city council meetings and speaking. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights had a toolkit, praised earlier this week by former President Barack Obama, with more resources and information on how to get involved.”
The speed with which public opinion has turned on the police didn't surprise Tony Williams, a member of Minneapolis-based abolitionist group MPD150, who noted the increasing nationwide anger over the high number of police killings of unarmed black men since 2015.
"This is unprecedented in our movement," Williams told the Guardian, "but it is a natural consequence of where we've been over the last five years.”
Louis Weisberg contributed to this report.