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Minneapolis city Councillors can row back from their ridiculous plan to defund the police. Its victims can’t.

Back in June, Fox 9 reported:

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council announced their support for de-funding the Minneapolis Police Department and replacing it with a community-based public safety model at a rally in Powderhorn Park Sunday afternoon. 

At the end of the rally, the councilmembers and some community activists committed to ending the Minneapolis Police Department through the budget process. The group also announced its intention to engage every willing community member to ask what safety means to them and create a “new transformative model for cultivating safety.”

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, and Council Members Alondra Cano, Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher, Cam Gordon and Jeremy Schroeder joined activists from Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block for the announcement.

With the support of the nine councilmembers, they have created a veto-proof supermajority in support of disbanding the police department.

Bender went on to say she and the eight other councilmembers that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Councilmember Ellison said frankly, “This council is going to dismantle this police department.” 

Similarly, Councilmember Cano said the council would “abolish the Minneapolis Police system as we know it.” 

What form would this “new transformative model for cultivating safety” take? It was something of a mystery:

When asked on CNN, Lisa Bender was only able to offer some waffle about “privilege”.

The nine said: “We recognize that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does.”

MPR News reported that:

…for all the talk about getting rid of the current police system, there was little discussion Sunday on what exactly would replace it.

Activist Tony Williams supports replacing the department with unarmed public safety responders.

“So it might not be uniformed police officers or armed folks,” he said. “But it might be a uniformed mental health crisis response team, for example that handles some of these calls, that looks nothing like the current police department system.”

Cunningham said the department should be replaced with well-funded resources designed to help people in crisis.

“What we know is that officers — and they will say themselves — that they are not the best response for a myriad of issues: mental health crises, opioid overdoses — even domestic violence,” he said. “They know they’re not the best response because it’s just a cycle of going back and going back. They’re not trained social workers.”

KSTP reported:

“We have a paradigm for safety that is rooted in community and justice. We have seen it the last two weeks, [Minneapolis council member Philippe] Cunningham said. “The reality is that people have been doing this work for decades and not being paid. We have poured that money into the police department and where has it gotten us?”

MPR News reported:

Cunningham represents part of north Minneapolis which normally sees a heavy police presence. But he said those officers were in short supply last week as people rioted in parts of the city and burned buildings. Cunningham said his constituents banded together to look out for their neighbors.

For some of those who were the loudest advocates of defunding the police – Jenkins, Cunningham, and Cano – it meant private security guards paid for by the taxpayer. As for what it meant for the rest of us, there were some hints, if you looked hard enough:

…see the remarks; “we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does”; “We have seen it the last two weeks”; “he said those officers were in short supply last week as people rioted in parts of the city and burned buildings. Cunningham said his constituents banded together to look out for their neighbors.”

What we have seen in the last two weeks – and which is, apparently, the essence of the “new transformative model for cultivating safety” is armed self defense by members of the public.

Someone should tell Rep. Ryan Winkler that DFL members of the city council were advocating a form a vigilantism as a replacement for the cops.

Violence increased in Minneapolis following the city council’s pledge. The city’s black population bore the brunt of this and led the pushback against the council’s plans. The Star Tribune reported:

Egregious, grotesque, absurd, crazy, ridiculous.

These are a handful of the words that some local African American leaders are using to rebuke the Minneapolis City Council’s moves toward dismantling the Police Department, even as they demand an overhaul of law enforcement.

While the movement to defund the police has been driven by Black activists, others say that city politicians rushed the process and failed to include a police chief who has the backing of many Black residents.

“They have shown a complete disregard for the voices and perspectives of many members of the African American community,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP. “We have not been consulted as the city makes its decisions, even though our community is the one most heavily impacted by both police violence and community violence.”

Fox 9 reported:

“When the City Council start talking about abolish and dismantling law enforcement it’s destroying, it’s destroying our community right now,” said Al Flowers, a community activist.

“With these calls to abolish the police and no real substantive plan to follow, those words have led some folks in our communities to believe that they have a sort of open season on their enemies,” said Alicia Smith, the executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood.

“It’s time to stand up in this city,” said Lisa Clemons of A Mother’s Love. “It is time to tell council that utopia is a bunch of BS. We are not in Mayberry, we are in the wild, wild west.”

And, last night, Fox 9 reported again:

Lisa Clemons has seen the violence from both sides. The former Minneapolis Police officer is director of Mother’s Love Initiative, an outreach group. 

Clemons surrounds her office with poster paper and the names of black men and women killed by gun violence. Clemons believes the violence in the city is related to the abolish police moment. 

“When you say, ‘abolish the police, we want the police gone,’ everything in a negative term, you don’t think they hear that?” asked Clemons. 

In September, the city council abandoned its push to defund the police, but not without some mutual acrimony. This weekend, members of the council were beclowning themselves in the national media:

Councilor Andrew Johnson, one of the nine members who supported the pledge in June, said in an interview that he meant the words “in spirit,” not by the letter. Another councilor, Phillipe Cunningham, said that the language in the pledge was “up for interpretation” and that even among council members soon after the promise was made, “it was very clear that most of us had interpreted that language differently.” Lisa Bender, the council president, paused for 16 seconds when asked if the council’s statement had led to uncertainty at a pivotal moment for the city.

This whole episode has been deeply embarrassing for Minneapolis. The Councillors can walk away from all this, whether they feel any shame about it or not. But, if activists like Al Flowers, Alicia Smith, and Lisa Clemons are correct and this pathetic political pantomime has contributed to increased violence in the city, then there are victims who cannot.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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