George Floyd’s Death: Minneapolis City Council Votes To Dismantle Police Department In Historic Move
The Minneapolis city council has pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety, a historic move that comes as calls to defund law enforcement are sweeping the US.
Speaking at a community rally on Sunday, a veto-proof majority of councilmembers declared their intent to “dismantle” and “abolish” the embattled police agency responsible for George Floyd’s death – and build an alternative model of community-led safety. The decision is a direct response to the massive protests that have taken over American cities in the last two weeks, and is a major victory for abolitionist activists who have long fought to disband police and prisons.
“In Minneapolis and in cities across the US, it is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” said Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis city council president, at the event. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period. Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that. Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
Nine councilmembers announced their support and represent a supermajority on the twelve-person council, meaning the mayor, who earlier this weekend opposed disbanding the department, cannot override them. The remaining three councilmembers are broadly supportive of the effort as well, but weren’t ready to sign on, activists said. While the mayor has oversight over the police, the city council has authority over the budget and policy, and could work to dismantle the department through cuts and ordinances.
The formal effort to abolish a major-city police department in America and replace it with a different model of safety would have been unthinkable even weeks ago and is a testament to the impact of the protests that began with Floyd’s death on 25 May. The unarmed 46-year-old was killed by Minneapolis police when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded for him to stop. Four officers now face criminal charges.
“This is a moment that’s going to go down in history as a landmark in the police and prison abolition movement,” said Tony Williams, a member of MPD150, a Minneapolis group whose literature on building a “police-free future” has been widely shared during the protests. “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.”
The councilmembers are expected to face opposition from law enforcement officials and the police union, though activists emphasize that the veto-proof majority has the authority to move forward regardless of opposition.
“It’s pretty clear the political will is here, and they can’t stop it,” said Williams, noting that even if police officers opposed the move, a vast majority of them live outside of Minneapolis and can’t vote on their elected leaders.