Protesters Demand Defunding and Demilitarization of Police

A sign in Miami calls for the police to be defunded.

A sign in Miami calls for the police to be defunded. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

In cities across the country, protest organizers say they want less money from local government budgets going to the police.

At protests across the country this weekend, demonstrators called for justice in the case of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

While many of the demands were specific to the incident, such as the wish for all four police officers at the scene to be charged, other protesters say they are focused on broader issues: police budgets, policies, and oversight. 

In Minneapolis, protesters say they want the mayor and city council to closely evaluate the money spent on the city’s police force. Kandace Montgomery, an organizer for the protests in the city, said in an interview this weekend with Truthout that she wants to see the city invest in “community-led safety solutions” instead.

“We want justice for George Floyd, and we think accountability with the officers is really necessary. And too often we just lean on that accountability and feed more into a prison system that continues to be harmful to all of our communities,” she said. “And so now is really the time for the Minneapolis City Council and mayor to defund the police and invest in community.”

Protesters from New York to Los Angeles echoed those calls, demanding that city leaders restructure budgets and defund local police departments. In some places, city leaders responded that they want to hear these concerns.

In Washington, D.C., Councilmember Charles Allen, the chair of the committee on the judiciary and public safety, decided to reschedule a police budget oversight hearing originally scheduled for Monday “due to the importance of the protests around the murder of George Floyd.” The hearing was supposed to be 90 minutes, but Allen said he will “find an additional time for District residents to testify.”

“Thousands of District residents are calling out injustice, racism, and police brutality against Black Americans,” he said in a statement. “It is clear to me the public needs more opportunities to testify directly before the Council on the issues of policing communities of color, excessive force, freedom of speech, and public funding for law enforcement agencies and violence prevention. Our budget is a document that reflects our values, including around law enforcement and how to improve public safety.”

As cities engage in a debate over how to invest public safety dollars, protesters are urging officials to look at existing models of community-led efforts. Many cities have violence interruption programs that rely on people trained in conflict resolution to preemptively approach those who might get involved in crime and offer them support like food, housing, and employment opportunities. In other places, like Dallas, emergency responders are sending social workers (instead of police) to 911 calls where mental health emergencies might require the use of deescalation strategies.

Besides budgetary concerns, another common chant among protesters this weekend was one calling for the demilitarization of the police as officers at the protests across the country donned riot gear, deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, and referred to demonstration crowd control as “urban warfare.”

The militarization of the police, according to the center-right R Street Institute, has been driven for decades by “the largely unsupported belief that American streets constitute a war zone and supplied by a steady stream of cast-off military equipment from the Pentagon” that have given local police forces a “police-against-the-world mentality.” President Obama limited the ability of local departments to access surplus military gear like grenade launchers and armored vehicles in 2015. This decision followed a nationwide debate over the use of force to quell protests after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But in 2017, President Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reinstated the program, saying the supplies constituted “lifesaving gear.”

Police unions have been largely resistant to calls for demilitarization in the past, saying the equipment is necessary for their work. In a letter sent Monday to members of the Minneapolis police union by the group’s president, Bob Kroll, he argued that protests only got out of hand because the police were understaffed and were told to wait before using tear gas and rubber bullets. “This terrorist movement that is currently occurring was a long time build up,” he wrote. “Starting with minimizing the size of our police force and diverting funds to community activists with an anti-police agenda … Given the right numbers, the right equipment, and your ability to use [the equipment, this] would have ended this Tuesday night.”

Some protesters and aid organizations counter that a forceful response to demonstrations against police violence only fan the flames of a volatile situation. Amnesty International released a statement on Sunday calling for police to put down their weapons. "In city after city, we are witnessing actions that could be considered unnecessary or excessive force,” the group said. "U.S. police across the country are failing their obligations under international law to respect and facilitate the right to peaceful protest, exacerbating a tense situation and endangering the lives of protesters. Police must engage in de-escalation, before the situation worsens.”

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
St. Louis Uses Interactive Kiosks as a Critical COVID-19 Communications Platform
St. Louis, MO, USA
Asheville Parks & Rec Strategic Plan Boosts Staff Participation & Deepens Community Relationships
Asheville, NC, USA
Citizens & Town Officials Form Consensus to Update 20-Year Strategic Priorities for Lake Lure, NC
Lake Lure, NC, USA

NEXT STORY: Protests and Unrest Continue In Cities Across America

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.