On Sunday, June 7, the Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle the city’s police department. The council members pledged to replace the department with a community built public safety system, citing an inability to reform the force – which has long been accused of racism. A total of nine council members voted in favor of the initiative (out of 12 total), a majority that could override a potential veto by Mayor Jacob Frey. It is important to note that this is something Black activists from organizations like MPD 150 and Reclaim the Block have spent years advocating for.
George Floyd was killed on Monday, May 25 by a white police officer named Derek Chauvin. In a video, Chauvin was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck while Floyd yelled “I can’t breathe.” On Tuesday, May 26, the video was spread on social media and protests began in Minneapolis. Soon demonstrations were happening in all fifty states. By Thursday, May 28, the Governor of Minnesota had sent the National Guard to Minneapolis. Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder.
As of Tuesday, June 9, the protests have lasted over two weeks. The demonstrators are protesting against the long-standing history of anti-Black racism and police brutality in the US, catalyzed by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahumaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, and Tony McDade. The actions have sparked movements across the country to redefine what public safety looks like.
Many government officials across the country have called for police reforms—initiatives and legislation that work to hold departments accountable. On Monday, Congressional Democrats introduced a reform bill called the Justice in Policing Act. The act would ban no-knock warrants and chokeholds, and increase police oversight. Many activists, on the other hand, have called for the defunding, dismantling, and the abolition of policing as we currently understand it. Public commenters at a Los Angeles budget committee hearing demanded the city enact the People’s Budget, a budget plan supported by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles that would divest from policing and invest in “housing, mental health and wellness, and public health and healthcare.”
The Minneapolis Police Department has a history of racism. Black people make up 20 percent of the city’s population but were the victims of over 60 percent of the city’s police shootings between the end of 2009 and May 2019. In Minneapolis, Black people are also more likely than white people to be arrested or pulled over. The force is predominantly white, and the majority of officers do not live in the city they police.
What Minneapolis will institute in place of the police force is still being brainstormed, but the city is no stranger to community-based public safety. During the protests, people banded together to protect a Black-owned business targeted by white supremacists, and members of the American Indian Movement patrolled streets to keep a Native American community safe.
Kenza Hadj-Moussa of TakeAction Minnesota states: “No one feels safe calling the police, period….they’re not doing their basic function of public safety.”
Sources: New York Times 06/09, Washington Post 06/09, MPR News 06/10, NBC News 06/10, Los Angeles Times 06/10, StarTribune 06/10.