Calls to #defundthepolice have become the rallying cry of a majority of protests against the Memorial Day death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The protests, which have been ongoing in several cities across the U.S. since that time, have also created a backlash amongst many Whites. Numerous stories and viral videos have shown White individuals, males and females, harassing and assaulting protestors, including the taking of signs and banners, spewing racist vitriol and physical assaults.
Most disturbingly, police have continued to use deadly force in questionable circumstances and, ominously, as of this writing, the bodies of three Black men have been found hanging from trees in public spaces.
27-year old Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot June 12 in Atlanta by now former police officer Garrett Rolfe, a six-year veteran of the department. Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot. Police were called and Brooks failed a sobriety test. Video from the event shows Brooks talking calmly with officers and obeying their instructions while taking the sobriety test.
Once the determination is made to place him under arrest Brooks attempts to escape from the custody of the officers who eventually use a taser on him. Brooks can be seen running away from the officers after attempting to use it on one of them. He is then shot in the back twice and falls to the ground.
Demonstrations were held in the city and the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was killed was burned to the ground. Protestors also shut down a nearby freeway.
In two California towns, Black men were found hanging from trees, as well as one in Manhattan, New York and one in Houston, Texas.
24-year old Robert Fuller was found dead near City Hall in Palmdale, approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles, on June 10. On May 31, 38-year old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in the City of Victorville, approximately 80 miles to the east of Los Angeles and 50 miles east of Palmdale.
Harsch was found close to a homeless encampment where individuals attempted to perform CPR on him, as well as deputies from the San Bernardino County sheriff’s office. Initial rulings by the coroner have listed suicide as the cause of death for both men however autopsies have not been completed. Additionally, families of the men say that their loved ones would not have committed suicide and want their deaths to be investigated fully.
Officials from the FBI and the US Department of Justice have announced they will be reviewing the cases.
Suicide was also the initial ruling in the death of 27-year old Dominique Alexander of the Bronx. Alexander was found dead near the Hudson River on June 9. Speaking to the New York Daily News Alexander’s brother would not comment on the circumstances of his death.
Activists, organizers and people of goodwill have followed up on the momentum of the protests with policy demands for local police departments. In Los Angeles a coalition calling itself The People’s Budget-Los Angeles has called for the 50 percent of the general fund that the City of Los Angeles consistently earmarks for the LAPD to be invested in “care not cops”. Mayor Garcetti announced on June 4 that $150 million of the LAPD’s proposed $1.86 billion budget would be reinvested in communities.
According to The People’s Budget website the group considered the move to be a victory but that more was necessary.
On June 15 Melina Abdullah, co-founder and organizer of Black Lives Matter-LA, addressed the city council during what turned out to be a very emotional hearing on the budget.
“Because I’m a mother, and you’re a [parent], and we all have children that we are trying to make this world better for. We’re all connected to each other. We have an opportunity in this moment, you have an opportunity in this moment to be courageous. You have an opportunity now to not just say ‘who am I as a city council member?’ but, ‘whose are you?’ Do you belong to the police protective league. … to your ambitions … to your ego, or do you belong to the people.”
“Overwhelmingly, the call was that we wanted to invest in universal needs and divest in traditional forms of policing,” said David Turner, a researcher with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles.
“What would it look like if instead of law enforcement shooting people with rubber bullets and tanks, we used some of that money … to invest in the protective equipment for our city workers and the protective equipment of the essential workers who are on the front line. What would it look like if we had that type of infrastructure already in place? Well now is the time to be bold,” Turner continued.
Speaking on ABC-7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers program LA politicos Karen Bass and Marqueece Harris Dawson had slightly differing opinions on the issue of defunding police.
Bass, Democratic Congressional Representative of the 37th District and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, stated “I will say that I don’t support the notion of defunding the police. What I absolutely do support is the idea of putting the investments in communities so the police department doesn’t have to pick up all of the problems.”
Harris-Dawson, councilman of Los Angeles’ 8th District, said “We have some of the lowest crime rates we’ve ever had. No matter how low crime goes, we give the police department more money the following year. That needs to stop.”