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Minneapolis: ‘Disband, defund,’ or community control, of the police

By staff |
June 8, 2020
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Loretta VanPelt of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J).
Loretta VanPelt of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J). (Photo by Brad Sigal)

Minneapolis, MN - On June 7, Minneapolis officials tried to pull one over on the people again, in the guise of promising real change after the murder of George Floyd. Nine city council members declared a “commitment to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.” The announcement was made at community meeting held by Black Visions and Reclaim the Block, two grassroots organizations that have been calling on the council to divest from MPD since 2018.

Even if the proposal comes to pass, it will do little to deliver true justice and to avenge the victims who have been brutalized and murdered by the police over the decades.

Nearly two weeks of unrest have rocked Minneapolis, along with cities across the U.S. and the world, the entire political establishment and every significant institution in the metro area has come out with statements of support for justice for George Floyd, and for police accountability in general.

The first point in the council members’ statement reads, “Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed and will never be accountable for its actions.” Loretta VanPelt of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J) says that’s the wrong place to start, “Dozens of families have had loved ones lives stolen by murders MPD officers. Those deaths can’t just be left to the history books, with no accountability. Justice begins with doing something about those killer cops.”

The next two points in the council members’ statement are outlined in a message posted to social media by council member Andrew Johnson: “No one is proposing that we simply end the MPD without a new public safety department that has widespread community support.” Johnson talks about community buy-in and re-imagining “a better model.”

Community meeting organizers had touted the nine council members as a “veto-proof majority for future policymaking,” but Johnson’s statement makes it clear that none of this can happen without a unanimous city council plus the mayor, or ballot approval by voters.

“The truth is, these council members can’t deliver what they’re promising, and honestly, they’re not promising real accountability and community control,” said VanPelt. “We don’t need the police department remodeled into a public safety department. Swapping out with sheriff’s deputies or private security companies won’t solve anything. We need community control over whoever polices our communities and how.”

VanPelt said, “This is more lip service than these council members have given us in the years since they were elected. They’ve never acted on the side of families and communities, least of all Black, indigenous and brown folks. Why should we believe them now? We’ve come to their meetings time and again, with mothers and sisters and cousins in tears, for their loved ones stolen by MPD. We’ve had them threaten to arrest us when we wouldn’t stand down. And these past two weeks, they’ve arrested plenty of us who were in the streets demanding justice.”

In its final point, the council members’ statement says they will “be taking intermediate steps towards ending the MPD through the budget process…” The budget for 2020 is already set, but it is within their powers to make changes in 2021. Unfortunately, cuts to the police budget cuts alone won’t save lives.

“These politicians know that nobody out in the streets for justice likes the police,” says VanPelt. “It’s easy to promise us abolition if you know it’s not in your power to deliver. But in the real world, you can’t just dismantle the police. This whole system of exploitation and white supremacy needs to be dismantled!”

Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar is fighting for community control of police and will formally re-present their proposal to the city council this week.

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