Movement 4 Black Lives, a coalition of more than 100 black-rights organizations, has drafted an open letter amid the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd calling for a stop on police budget increases. The letter urges state and local governments to take the money that would go towards increasing police budgets and use it towards improving health care, education, and more programs for black communities. A report from Variety states the “open demand letter” has already been signed by the likes of Lizzo, John Legend, Taraji P. Henson, Natalie Portman, Jane Fonda, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, and more.
“Black communities are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities like police, immigration agents or even white vigilantes who are emboldened by state actors,” the letter reads. “According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.”
“Where could that money go?” the letter continues. “It could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future. The possibilities are endless.”
In an interview with Variety, Black Lives Matter and Movement 4 Black Lives cofounder Patrisse Cullors stresses the goal is not to defund police forces entirely. Cullors notes that the Los Angeles City Council spends 54% of its budget on the Los Angeles Police Department, a number she calls “an exorbitant amount toward one agency, especially when other agencies’ budgets either don’t increase or are cut every year.”
“A demand to defund essentially means, what places does law enforcement have money that is unnecessary?” Cullors said. “Law enforcement should not be the first responder for mental-health crises, they shouldn’t be the first responders for drug and alcohol abuse; there are a significant number of public health crises that law enforcement are forced to be the first responders to but should not be, and we could actually reallocate those dollars and give them back to the community. I’m talking about renegotiation of where we prioritize our money. Right now it’s mostly prisons and police, and we want to reallocate those dollars and put them into the community.”
The letter concludes by calling for a “defunding of police and for those dollars to be rerouted to create a public national healthcare system.” Signees plan to show their support by “voting no on all increases to police budgets, voting yes to decrease police spending and budgets, and voting yes to increase spending on health care, education, and other programs that keep black communities safe.”