Minneapolis City Council Vows To Disband Police Department After Two Weeks Of Protests
The Minneapolis city council has pledged to disband the city’s police department and instead invest in community-led public safety.
The historic moves comes after two weeks of protests which have seen hundreds of thousands of people around the world rallying together to demand justice for black lives, following the death of George Floyd – an unarmed black man – at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Speaking at a community rally on Sunday, June 7, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members announced their commitment to ‘dismantle’ and ‘abolish’ the police agency responsible for Floyd’s death.
Nine of the 13 councillors said a ‘new model of public safety’ would be created as they read a statement to hundreds of protesters on Sunday.
City Council President Lisa Bender said, as per The Appeal: ‘We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe.’
‘Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period,’ she continued, saying that while details of the plan needed to be discussed in further detail, she would attempt to shift police funding towards community-based strategies.
These nine councillors represent a majority on the council, meaning the mayor – who just this weekend opposed disbanding the police department – cannot override them.
Addressing thousands of protesters on Saturday, June 6, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that while he acknowledges ‘there needs to be deep-seated, structural reform in terms of how the department operates’, ultimately he said: ‘I do not support the full abolition of the police department’.
However, although the mayor does have oversight over the police, the city council has authority over the budget and policy, and therefore could effectively dismantle the department through cuts and ordinances.
Activists have called the moment a turning point, having fought for years for such a change to the system, however commentators say the city of Minneapolis can now expect a long and complex debate over policing – with council members expected to face opposition from law enforcement officials.
Even with this opposition though, activists emphasise that the veto-proof majority has the authority to move forward regardless. Tony Williams, a member of MPD150 – a Minneapolis group that is ‘working toward a police-free Minneapolis’ – said even if police officers opposed the move, a vast majority of them live outside of Minneapolis and so can’t vote on their elected leaders.
Williams continued, as per The Guardian:
It’s pretty clear the political will is here, and they can’t stop it… This is a moment that’s going to go down in history as a landmark in the police and prison abolition movement. There’s a groundswell of support for this.
People are grounded in the history of policing in a way that has never happened before. It’s visible that police are not able to create safety for communities.
It’s unclear how quickly this process could take, although supporters are pushing for the council to start with taking money away from the police budget and investing in other government departments and programmes.
The protests, which were sparked by the killing of Floyd on May 25, have already led to the arrest of all four officers involved, with Derek Chauvin – the white officer who knelt on his neck until he lost consciousness – being charged with second degree murder and the other three with aiding and abetting murder.
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