Protesters, officials call for police to be defunded

Protesters have called for budget cuts in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among others

Some protesters and officials are calling for police departments to be defunded and for the money to instead be put toward programs that benefit communities of color.

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Racial tensions throughout the country flared after the May 25 death of George Floyd. Floyd, who was black, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck.

The call for police budget cuts comes at a time when most states were already faced with the need to reevaluate spending amid deficits and economic uncertainty that are a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday in Phoenix, protesters carried signs calling for the defunding of police. That same day in Seattle, demonstrators carried “Black Lives Matter” signs, calling for cuts to the police department’s budget and shifting the money to social programs.

People march through the streets of New Orleans on June 3, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Protesters have also called for budget cuts in New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

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In New York, the police department faces the threat of budget cuts for the first time in at least 20 years, the New York Post reported.

City officials asked the NYPD to provide them with a proposal for ways in which the budget can be thinned by between 5 percent to 7 percent, according to the report.

“Given the current economic times, we are looking at the NYPD budget and at possible ways to cut its budget,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat who is running for mayor, according to the Post. “We are in a bad situation, but it is not equitable to propose a 32 percent cut to the Department of Youth and Community Development and less than a 1 percent cut to the NYPD.”

The police department currently has a $6 billion yearly budget, the outlet reported.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, another mayoral contender, is also calling for the gradual shift of $1.1 billion from the NYPD “toward vulnerable communities most impacted by police violence and structural racism,” according to the Post report.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is already at risk of needing budget cuts and even potential furloughs and layoffs if it does not receive support from the state and the federal stimulus package.

"We’ll be having a very different conversation," de Blasio said at a morning press conference. "It will be about, unfortunately, and  tragically, defunding every single city agency."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department could face between $100 million and $150 million in budget cuts, the Los Angeles Times reported. The department reportedly has a $1.86 billion budget.

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On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would “identify $250 million in cuts so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education and in healing," according to the report, "as well as communities of color and women and people who have been left behind."

Protesters rally on June 3, 2020, in Phoenix, demanding that the Phoenix City Council defund the Phoenix Police Department. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The outlet reported the divestment of funds would "especially" benefit black communities.

Garcetti reportedly said the budget cuts would impact "every department, including the Police Department because we all have to be part of this solution together. We all have to step up and say, ‘What can we sacrifice?’”

Racial tensions were running high even before Floyd's death, after two white men were arrested in May in the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and after Louisville, Kentucky, police shot Breonna Taylor to death in her home in March.

Thousands of people have since taken to the streets nationwide to protest police brutality.

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“George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point — an all too familiar reminder that, for Black people, law enforcement doesn’t protect or save our lives. They often threaten and take them,” Black Lives Matter wrote on its website. “Right now, Minneapolis and cities across our country are on fire, and our people are hurting — the violence against Black bodies felt in the ongoing mass disobedience, all while we grapple with a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting, infecting, and killing us.”

On May 30, the people behind the movement started a #DefundThePolice petition, calling for “acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police.”

Debris and carts are strewn in the Target parking lot near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, following a night of rioting and looting as protests continue over the arrest of George Floyd who died in police custody. (AP Ph

“We call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives, the group said in the petition, later adding: “We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.”

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It’s been an unprecedented week in modern American history, in which largely peaceful protests took place in communities of all sizes but were rocked by bouts of violence between members of the public and police, including deadly attacks on officers.

Riots, looting and arson have also been reported. In Minneapolis alone, more than 220 buildings were damaged or burned, with property damage topping $55 million, city officials said.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 people have been arrested in connection with the unrest, an Associated Press tally shows. More than a dozen deaths have been reported, although the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.

Most states have budget deadlines with the new fiscal year starting July 1.

Defunding the police means reallocating money budgeted for the agencies and instead, putting it toward other causes.

A different #DefundPolice petition has been signed by musicians Lizzo, The Weeknd and John Legend, Pitchfork reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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