Summer in America began with two consecutive weeks of protests against the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which followed the devastating racially motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Six years after the Black Lives Matter movement grew from protests against the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—six years during which police continued to routinely murder Black men and women in their communities, in their homes, in their cars, and every place a human deserves to feel safe—Floyd’s death has brought tens of thousands of Americans into the streets to demand a change.
The protests against police brutality were…. rife with police brutality. Every day brought us new scenes of needless violence and provocation on behalf of law enforcement while opportunistic politicians focused only on those who compromised the movement’s message by committing looting and vandalism. For their part, the protesters were largely peaceful.
Peaceful protesting works—especially when the exact forces you are protesting against prove their inadequacy every chance they get. Cities are already moving to change the way they conceive of public safety, vowing to divert funding from law enforcement to social and youth services, ban certain police procedures that often turn deadly, and demand more accountability for officers involved in violent encounters.
We’re keeping track of the wins of the protest movement against police brutality here:
Minneapolis City Council Votes To Dismantle Police Force
On June 7, the Minneapolis City Council announced it would vote to “dismantle” the city’s police department, saying it’s too broken to be reformed as is. Following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and other high profile incidents, the city will reimagine how law enforcement can promote public safety. City Council President Lisa Bender says they will dissolve and replace the police department with a “transformative new model of public safety.”
What will this look like in practice? It remains to be seen, but Bender told NPR this week that she expects a combination of budget reallocation and social programs to foster community health and safety through means other than policing, like reinvestment in social and mental health services, which account for a huge portion of the city’s 911 calls.
This came just one day after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was booed by protesters after saying he did not support abolishing the force. Enough City Council members have committed to the vote that the mayor cannot veto their decision. Plus, Prince is the forever mayor of Minneapolis anyway.
Louisville, Kentucky Considers Banning “No-Knock” Warrants
In March, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her own home when they broke through her door with a battering ram to execute a “no-knock warrant,” the questionably legal practice that allowed officers to bang on her door without announcing themselves as law enforcement. We know now that the police had virtually no reason to be at Breonna’s home, and certainly none pursue a violent raid.
An ordinance proposed by the Louisville Metro Council would limit the “no-knock” warrants that resulted in Breonna’s death to cases involving “imminent threat of harm or death,” and limited to offenses including murder, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking and sexual trafficking.
Police were granted a “no-knock” warrant to search Breonna’s home because the police claimed a postal inspector confirmed she received packages there (the Louisville postal inspector has since said he was never consulted, and there was nothing suspicious about the packages).
Confederate Statues Fall Across The United States
After protesters in Richmond, Virginia covered a monument to army commander Robert E. Lee in graffiti and projected a stunning image of George Floyd, Governor Ralph Northam (yes, the one who did blackface) announced plans to finally remove the monument to the confederate general that was erected 130 years ago.
🚨TODAY: Governor Northam is expected to make a HISTORIC announcement at 11am, calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Ave.
Overnight, George Floyd’s face was projected onto the base of the monument. pic.twitter.com/OWzCygeKtk
— Anthony Antoine (@AnthonyNBC12) June 4, 2020
However, a judge has temporarily blocked the removal after the Virginia descendent of a signatory to the monument’s deed claimed moving it would “cause irreparable harm” to the statue. Yeah, that’s kind of the whole point.
Confederate monuments will also be removed in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. The Black Lives Matter movement even jumped across the pond over the weekend, as protesters in Bristol, England toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.
New York City Mayor Vows To Cut Police Budget
Nobody’s favorite mayor Bill De Blasio vowed to cut the NYPD’s $6 billion budget and divert funds to youth and social services. While advocates had urged De Blasio to commit to a full $1 billion reduction in funding (the city’s entire operating budget is $90 billion), De Blasio stopped short of promising a seven-figure cut.
New York State Moves To Ban Chokeholds
On June 8, six years after an officer killed Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk as he plead “I can’t breathe,” New York State Assembly on Monday passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. The bill will criminalize chokehold that result in death or injury. According to the bill, an officer who kills or injures another person can be charged with a class C felony and serve up to 15 years in prison. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.
While the NYPD had already banned chokehold in 1994, state lawmakers note that was not enough to save Eric Garner. Garner’s killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo
Los Angeles Cuts Police Budget
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti agreed to slash up to $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department’s $2 billion budget.
Members Of Congress Introduce The Most Sweeping Police Reform Bill In Decades
Democratic members of the House and Senate unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 this week, which would prohibit the use of choke-holds, allow for greater criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct, ban certain no-knock warrants, and create a national registry to track police misconduct. The bill also pursues an end to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers and other public officials from being sued in civil lawsuits over misconduct that occurred on the job.
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday. It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will pass the bill as is.