Police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, shocking the consciousness of the entire United States. On May 25 of this year, President Joe Biden announced that he will instate an executive order which is a watered-down version of a police reform proposal that previously failed to pass in the Senate. The failed proposal would have altered “qualified immunity”, a doctrine that makes it difficult to sue government officials, including police. The proposal would have kept the doctrine intact for individual officers, but made it easier for police brutality victims to sue officers or municipalities. This new executive order would merely create a national registry of officers fired for misconduct, in addition to directing federal agencies to revise use-of-force policies, encouraging state and local police to tighten restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, restrict the transfer of most military equipment to law enforcement agencies, as reported by the New York Times.
Defund the police
There is no better contemporary proof that reformism is poison to social justice, than what has happened to the demand for “defund the police”. This emerged as a slogan amidst the George Floyd uprisings. In many ways Donald Trump’s militarized police crackdown on the mobilizations actually served to embolden them. But the indignation the people felt in the face of Trump's bombast was quickly exploited by corporate media cheerleaders of the Democratic party wing of neoliberal settler-colonial duopoly to win control over the US presidency and both legislative branches of government. The Democratic party is notorious for exploiting left leaning but essentially reformist mobilizations. The Biden-Harris campaign platform played up a “police reform” that hijacked much of the political logic of those calling for defunding the police .
In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey, who was in office at the time of the murder of Floyd and the subsequent rebellions in the city and around the country, has now issued a proposal to ban “No-Knock Warrants”. However, the problems of police misconduct and brutality are not new to Minneapolis and the recent initiative by the City of Minneapolis does provide loopholes that would allow the type of law-enforcement intrusions into people’s homes that result in many unjustified deaths. During a press conference on March 14, Frey told the media that: "The purpose here is to give people who are trying to comply, people who are trying to do the right thing, giving them the ability to again, get their wherewithal, answer the call if possible, and to make sure that officers are then entering into a situation where an individual is well-informed about who is entering the place."
As the omicron variant surged into the new year, pushing statewide infection rates in Maryland past 30% and sending Baltimore City residents scrambling for COVID-19 tests and N95 masks, Baltimore City spent more money on the Baltimore Police Department. On Dec. 23, Baltimore City’s Board Of Estimates approved $18 million for three new police helicopters. The three new helicopters will replace the four old helicopters purchased in 2011 for $9.5 million, Baltimore Brew reported. It was the latest burst of additional funding since the Baltimore City Council voted to give the Baltimore Police a $28 million budget increase back in June 2021. In September, $6.5 million in revenue from red light cameras, supposedly allotted to make streets safer for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, was instead given to the police.
It was a cool Friday in Minneapolis, made cooler by the shadows of the skyscrapers towering over People’s Plaza. In the brick-lined courtyard between the Hennepin County Government Center and Minneapolis City Hall on September 17, the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign and its allies held a rally whose purpose had come undone the day before. Yes 4 Minneapolis is working to amend the Minneapolis City Charter by removing a mandate for a mayor-controlled police department with a certain number of officers per resident (0.0017, to be exact). In its place, the amendment establishes a Department of Public Safety under the joint control of the mayor and the 13-member Minneapolis City Council. The radical restructuring would allow for future revisions.
City Council meetings were dominated by residents’ and civil rights activists’ calls for police accountability. A year later, these activists say their relationships with City Council remain strained. Those hoping to redistribute police investment said they’re unsatisfied with the government’s response. Some City Council members say they understand the calls for change, but that change takes time.
Policing and militarism are a two-headed monster that protects and upholds the foundation upon which racial capitalism was built — exploitation of the lives of poor Black and Brown people. Although much attention has been placed on recent expansions of police militarization, these threads have long been intertwined. For Black Americans, police have always acted as an occupying force within our communities. But during the 1960s, a decade of unprecedented Black radical resistance, the lines between police and military and national defense became even more blurred. On December 8, 1969, the SWAT unit of the Los Angeles Police Department raided the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
One year ago, thousands of people engaged in protest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer. A persistent protest demand was for defunding police departments. The appeal of this rallying cry was obvious. Police in this country are a law unto themselves, killing and brutalizing at will, and rarely being called to account. Often these fatal encounters occur after minor offenses are committed or in the case of black people, when a call for assistance instead leads to death. The premise of defunding police is well intentioned but faulty. In the past year we have seen sleight of hand in cities like New York where alleged funding cuts amounted to nothing more than budgetary trickery. Even in Minneapolis, where the movement began, defunding became nothing more than a name change.
Baltimore, MD - The battle to keep Black, brown, and other marginalized people safe from police violence is like a fire that has burned for as long as this country has existed. Hot spots flare up when this country’s hatred for Black and Brown people becomes more apparent, making the heat more intense and the pain more unbearable. It feels like we are in one of those moments where the fire is burning especially strong right now. This week, a jury found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. In May of last year, Chauvin was caught on tape kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd begged for his life. We reached out to State Sen. Jill Carter and Del. Gabriel Acevero, two Maryland lawmakers who were instrumental in getting comprehensive policing legislation passed here in Maryland just a few weeks ago.
As TFTP reported last week, Christian Joseph Hall, 19, was in the midst of a mental health crisis. He positioned himself on top of an overpass on I-80 leading to police closing off the road and engaging with him. Moments after police arrived, however, Hall would be dead. Video would prove he had his hands in the air and had surrendered when cops opened fire. Hall has now become one of over 1,400 people in a mental health crisis to lose their lives to police since 2015. As TFTP has pointed out, even cops who voluntarily attend Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), have shown that they are quick to the trigger when dealing with the mentally ill.
The criminal “justice” apparatus faces increasing criticism for emphasizing punishment, violent abuse and incarceration of criminals rather than rehabilitation. However, few observers recognize the active role community “justice” programs and businesses play in this displacement. The public/private SafeZone initiative launched in downtown Minneapolis in 2004 serves as an instructive example of how programs lauded as reforms can still impose punitive “law and order” tactics onto targeted populations. “A month ago I was driving down Nicollet going to pick up my girl, somebody shot at me, twice!” Demetri (whose real name is being protected) said in an electrified voice.
Texas - The Austin City Council voted today to purchase one hotel and turn it into 60 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness. The vote to purchase a second hotel has been postponed to next week after a city council member asked for more time to gather feedback from her constituents. Under the measure, the city will spend approximately $6.7 million from its Housing and Planning Department’s general obligation bonds to acquire one hotel and use some money from a recurring $6.5 million fund taken from the police department’s budget to provide services to the residents of the hotel.
The demand to defund the police has become a central narrative responding to the graphic killing of Black people. Black organizers must now discuss if this strategy can move us closer to community control of public safety and unpoliced Black neighborhoods. The defund demand has a number of important branches but at its root it is a call to mobilize community energy towards winning votes at local budget hearings. This effort is not just about the vote but reflects a firm belief in U.S. democracy which at this exact moment may be the most mistaken political stance possible. During the Jan. 6th meeting at the U.S. Capitol we witnessed a show of strength that could not have happened without deep police collaboration.
Over the past eight months since George Floyd was choked to death by the Minneapolis Police Department, demands to defund the police emanating from Minneapolis spread like wildfire, echoing in the streets, in petitions to policymakers, and in the testimonies of thousands of people calling and writing in to virtual council chambers. Calls to defund police and invest in communities were not only a response to the ongoing murders of Black people like Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the hundreds of others killed by police every year. They were also a manifestation of outrage at the ongoing abandonment of Black, Indigenous, migrant, unhoused, disabled, and low-income communities to the...
On January 6, we witnessed the vast double standard for how Black Lives Matter protest is treated versus how white-supremacy-as-mob is treated. This wasn’t just a matter of police refraining from mass beating and arresting participants in the pro-Trump storming of the Capitol: Numerous police appear to have actively supported the mob, and to have defended it after the fact. First, it’s important to clarify that what happened on January 6 was not a protest. Protest is about seeking redress for wrongdoing — this was backlash. Redress was the November 3 democratic process and recrimination of a criminal president. January 6 was payback and mob rule.