Fund Communities Not Cops: City Council Budget Hearing #2
Hundreds of community members gathered at Minneapolis City Hall on Wednesday night to attend a budget listening session. Residents called on City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey to support proposals to divest from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and to support increased efforts for affordable housing in the city.
Members of the community coalition Reclaim The Block carried signs and wore shirts bearing the demand "Fund our communities not cops." Reclaim The Block was specifically demanding a 5% divestment from MPD's budget, and that City Council instead set aside that money to create new opportunities for community safety. The proposed budget currently provides about three times as much funding for MPD as it does for affordable housing and health combined.
"It's one, saying let's stop investing in the problem, that continues to prove itself a problem, and instead let's invest in the things that we know community is one asking for and two, need." said Kandace Montgomery, an organizer with Reclaim The Block. "In order to be responsive we have to actually start to address things at the root of their problem, so we know that inter-community violence and things like that occur because people are trying to get their basic needs met. So instead of putting more police officers on the street that ultimately don't end violence but instead create more violence let's invest instead in things like housing and community lead violence prevention programs and things like that, that actually get at the root of the problem and provide [for] the needs that people have."
While some residents spoke against Reclaim The Block's proposals, and even went as far as supporting an increase in police funding, the vast majority of citizen testimony supported divestment from the police department. Around 60 community members provided testimony supporting divestment, affordable housing, and new community lead programs to create a safer and healthier city.
Over the past year the Minneapolis Police Department killed two members of the community, one during a response to a mental health call. MPD was also involved in a Ketamine scandal this year, where they were caught drugging citizens without consent, sometimes resulting in serious health issues. In the face of a police department clearly failing to provide safety to their community, citizens are asking for that money to be used in ways that would actually encourage a safer city such as affordable housing, mental health services, and harm reduction addiction programs.