George Floyd’s death has given new life to a leftist movement to abolish the police, an idea with broad support among the Minneapolis City Council and the progressive wing of the DFL Party.
Just a day after Floyd’s death, state Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis) released a nearly 500-word statement on “why we talk about police abolition.”
“There is no reform that can fix this system. No training or body camera or coaching or diversification effort or outside investigation or toothless oversight body that can fix this,” said Gomez, communicating her disagreement with those who believe police departments are in need of reform, but not abolition.
The issue, according to Gomez, is that the “current policing system” is designed to “protect private property, uphold white supremacy, and terrorize black and brown people.”
“The rot in police departments is the rot in our political and social systems, crystallized and heavily armed. It is a reflection of our country, built on the enslavement of African people and the genocide and dispossession of Native people, reliant on exploited immigrant labor to enforce the racialized social order and help the powerful accumulate wealth,” she continued.
She concluded her remarks by calling on her constituents to “intentionally walk away from a system of state violence that murders and terrorizes black and brown men.” Again, all of this is done to “uphold white supremacy and capitalism.”
Gomez’s statement was posted on the website of TakeAction Minnesota, a self-described “hub” for the state’s “progressive movement.” Like many left-wing grassroots groups in Minnesota, TakeAction is calling on the Minneapolis City Council to “defund” the police force.
TakeAction claims that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is an “unaccountable, violent institution that’s led by Bob Kroll, a white supremacist.” Although Kroll serves as the president of the city’s police union, the head of the police force is actually Chief Medaria Arradondo, the MPD’s first black chief.
Gomez’s fellow Minneapolis representatives have made similar statements, including Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis), who said that Floyd’s death was the “result of structures of white supremacy that perpetuate that black and brown people don’t matter.”
“It’s long past time to dismantle the systems that allow this type of behavior to persist,” said Dehn.
Others who are in a position to actually do something about the issue agree with the likes of Gomez and TakeAction, and have vowed to “dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”
“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, the son of Attorney General Keith Ellison and an open supporter of the extremist group Antifa.
“Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety,” replied Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender.
Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety. https://t.co/FCfjoPy64k
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) June 4, 2020
When asked if she would “work with the mayor’s office on this,” Bender said it “doesn’t matter anymore.”
“I think we have the help we need no matter what happens,” she said.
Minneapolis City Council aligning around “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department” and working with the mayor “doesn’t matter anymore.” pic.twitter.com/36jEMPxzgy
— Tony Webster (@webster) June 4, 2020
Mayor Jacob Frey was booed out of a protest Saturday night organized by the Black Visions Collective after saying he favors reforms to the police department over full abolition.
“I do not support the full abolition of the police department,” Frey told the crowd of protesters, who were demanding that Frey commit to defunding the MPD.
“Go home, Jacob, go home,” protesters shouted as the mayor left the demonstration.
We got @MayorFrey to come out of his house and asked him one simple question. “Will you commit to defunding the Minneapolis Police Department?” He said no…Now we prepare for tomorrow… pic.twitter.com/d71WdCqAjO
— Black Visions Collective (@BlackVisionsMN) June 7, 2020
The council has seemingly turned against the mayor on the issue and will work on abolishing the police with or without his support. Minneapolis Council Member Steve Fletcher recently disclosed that he’s working with his colleagues on looking into “what it would take to disband” the MPD and “start fresh.” Fletcher called the department “irredeemably beyond reform,” The Minnesota Sun reported.
Fletcher then published an op-ed in Time Friday to expound on his views and said that “every member of the Minneapolis City Council has now expressed the need for dramatic structural change.”
“I am one of many on the council, including the Council President and the Chair of Public Safety, who are publicly supporting the call to disband our police department and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity,” he said. Several of his colleagues on the council made similar comments Friday after they agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints from being used by Minneapolis officers.
TakeAction is working with another group called MPD150, which wants to “transition to a police-free Minneapolis.”
“We will achieve this by presenting a practical pathway for the dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Department; the transference of its social service functions to community-based agencies and organizations; the replacement of its emergency intervention functions with models not based on military methods; and the redirection of resources to support community resilience and people-directed development,” the group states on its website.
A similar organization called Reclaim the Block, which has been around since 2018, circulated a petition after Floyd’s death calling on the Minneapolis City Council to commit to defunding the police “by Saturday, May 30 at 8 a.m.”
“We have called on the Minneapolis City Council to become these visionary leaders by pledging to defund the Minneapolis Police Department and invest in the resources that really keep us safe and healthy, especially in Black communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color,” said the petition.
The proposal to abolish the MPD now has the support of some of Minneapolis’s highest-ranking officials, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), who represents the city in Congress.
“The Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform. It’s time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis,” the congresswoman wrote on Twitter Friday.
The Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform.
It’s time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 5, 2020
Even Lizzo, who got her start in Minneapolis, has signed her name to a petition in support of “divesting” from the police.
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