By KIM BELLARD
In the wake of the protests related to George Floyd’s death, there have been many calls to “defund police.” Those words come as a shock to many people, some of whom can’t imagine even reducing police budgets, much less abolishing entire police departments, as a few advocates do indeed call for.
If we’re talking about institutions that are supposed to protect us but too often cause us harm, maybe we should be talking about defunding health care as well.
America loves the police. They’re like mom and apple pie; not supporting them is essentially seen as being unpatriotic. Until recent events, it’s been political suicide to try to attack police budgets. It’s much easier for politicians to urge more police, with more hardware, even military grade, while searching for budget cuts that will attract less attention.
It remains to be seen whether the current climate will actually lead to action, but there are faint signs of change. The mayor of Los Angeles has promised to cut $150 million from its police budget, the New York City mayor vowed to cut some of its $6b police budget, and the Minneapolis City Council voted to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department,” perhaps spurred by seeing the mayor do a “walk of shame” of jeers from protesters when he would not agree to even defunding it.
By KIM BELLARD
I was wondering what might crowd COVID-19 off the news. The historic economic devastation caused by it has been subsumed into it, just another casualty of the pandemic. In better times, perhaps SpaceX’s efforts would inspire us. But, no, it took the police killing of yet another person of color to take our attention away.
Now, let me say right off that I am not the best person to discuss George Floyd’s death and the woeful pattern it is part of. I have certainly been the beneficiary of white male privilege. I’ve never been unjustly pulled over or arrested. I haven’t taken part in the protests. But people like me need to speak out. Writing about anything else right now seems almost irresponsible.
OK: you’ve seen the video. You’ve heard Mr. Floyd protest that he can’t breathe, that the officer was killing him. You’ve seen other officers stand by and not do anything — some even assisting — even as bystanders pleaded for them to let Mr. Floyd breathe. It’s disturbing, it’s distressing, and it’s nothing new.
I saw a video from one of the resulting protests where another officer restrained a protester — a black man, of course — in exactly the same way, although in this case another officer eventually moved the officer’s knee off the protester’s neck. He’d learned what that video looked like.
There now have been protests in over 140 U.S. cities, with the National Guard mobilized in almost half the states. Most protests have been peaceful, but there has been looting and there have been shootings. It’s a level of civil unrest not seen since the 1960’s.
And we thought it was bad when we just wanted the grocery stores to have toilet paper again, when wearing a mask was considered a hardship.