Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to defund and dismantle the city’s police department following the death of George Floyd, vowing to create a new system of public safety, CNN reported. Nine votes is a veto-proof majority in the 13-member council.
“We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” Council President Lisa Bender told the channel.
The council members stood before hundreds of people gathered late in the day and promised to begin the process of taking apart the police department as it now exists. The city’s law enforcement has been long accused of racism.
The pledge in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died 13 days ago after being pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee, reflected calls across the United States urging lawmakers to push for greater police accountability. Protestors have taken to the streets with demands to shrink or abolish police departments, and “defund the police” has become a frequent rallying cry.
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday pledged for the first time to cut the city’s police funding, following ten days of widespread protests against police brutality, The New York Times reported. The money and responsibilities will be diverted from police forces to social services agencies, de Blasio said.
However, the precise amount of the cutback was not immediately shared by him. “We’re committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services, that will happen literally in the course of the next three weeks, but I’m not going to go into detail because it is subject to negotiation and we want to figure out what makes sense,” he said. The New York Police Department has an annual budget of $6 billion (around Rs 45,000 crore).
Earlier in the day, de Blasio announced on Twitter that New York City’s first curfew since World War II would end effectively immediately, a day earlier than planned, as protests had become more peaceful in recent days. “Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart,” he added. “Keep staying safe. Keep looking out for each other.”
The announcement comes at a time when de Blasio is facing unrest within his own administration over his handling of both the coronavirus crisis and the mass demonstrations following Floyd’s death. Many protesters have accused the Police Department of using violence during the unrest while enforcing the curfew.
In another development, United States President Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from the streets of Washington, after a week of relentless criticism over his threat to militarise the government’s response to protests.
“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, DC, now that everything is under perfect control,” Trump tweeted.“They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”
Roughly 5,000 National Guard troops had been called to patrol the nation’s capital – 3,900 out-of-state National Guard troops from 11 states, and 1,200 DC-based Guard troops – amid the ongoing protests, according to CNN.
Tens of thousands of people protested peacefully against Floyd’s death over the weekend in many US cities. In New York City, authorities urged demonstrators to get themselves tested for the coronavirus, as the city poised to reopen after a two-month coronavirus lockdown, AP reported.
“Get a test. Get a test,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told the protestors. He said the state would open 15 testing sites dedicated to protesters so they can get results quickly. This also came as de Blasio lifted the city’s 8 pm curfew.
Similar calls were made in Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta following massive demonstrations, with authorities arranging free testing for protesters.