The murder of George Floyd at the hand of a white police officer on May 25 has sparked more than just protests and calls for shifting racial relations. It’s also prompting a movement to defund law enforcement across the US. For several years activists have been advocating for US cities and states to cut police budgets, and although such demands previously gained little traction, recent events have drawn more mainstream attention to the issue.
Julia Salazar, a New York state senator, told The Guardian, “To see legislators who aren’t even necessarily on the left supporting at least a significant decrease in New York police department [NYPD] funding is really very encouraging. It feels a little bit surreal.”
The video footage of Floyd’s killing, coupled with visuals of militarized police responding with excessive force to peaceful protests, is leading to serious conversations about police budgets. And since this issue is arising in the middle of a pandemic, when communities are already economically strapped, people are wondering if tax dollars might be better spent elsewhere.
Some local leaders have already proposed cuts to police funding. The Minneapolis school board just voted to end its contract with the police department to remove the police presence from community schools. Tony Williams, a member of the MPD150 abolition group advocating against police in schools, said, “This is unprecedented in our movement, but it is a natural consequence of where we’ve been over the last five years.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he would consider cuts of up to $150 million to police budgets and reinvesting the funds in black communities.