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Some Black leaders in Minneapolis speak out against City Council's moves to defund police

Maya Rao, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said that there's urgency to create a system of emergency response that isn't harmful and that the council is not "pre-prescribing" what that looks like. He added that the charter change provides room for the council to make changes that the community asks for and doesn't lock them in to minimum police staffing or having police as the sole emergency responders.

"The Black community is not a monolith and just because there's someone that might have a high profile doesn't meant that they necessarily speak on behalf of the Black community of Minneapolis," said Ellison, who is Black and represents a North Side ward that's about half Black.

He said the city wants to create a system that is sustainable because "I'm not always going to be the council member of Ward 5, Jacob's not always going to be the mayor, Rondo's not always going to be the chief, and so we can't build policy based on one person's personality ... "

On June 7, a veto-proof majority of the council vowed to disband the Police Department at a rally in Powderhorn Park. The event was hosted by Black Visions Collective, a Black-led racial justice nonprofit, and Reclaim the Block, an affiliated coalition demanding divestment from the police.

Those organizations have pushed City Hall in recent years to shift money from the Police Department to violence prevention and community programs as the first move toward a police-free society.

"We have been working to call for defunding of the police primarily because we feel like it's one really critical step in actually being able to abolish the police and open up the resources that are really needed in our communities to provide true safety," Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, told Belton last week.


They spoke during a collegial online discussion hosted by the Twin Cities Urban League. When Belton relayed a question from a listener asking why they couldn't work with the chief instead of removing power held by a Black person, Montgomery replied, "It's not a target towards Rondo. It's actually saying we need the type of leadership, the decades of experience to lead a department like this, that are rooted in community models of safety and restorative justice ... and most career law enforcement folks do not have that."

She said she was on daily calls with council members "trying to get stronger and more clear and specific language ... we think this is a first step and this is a marathon."

Belton said that some voices have been lost, noting, "There have been a lot of others who have been left out of this conversation."

He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the problem is a culture of policing that disregards Black lives, but there's nothing in the new proposal that addresses that. He said it's irresponsible to talk about funding health care, housing and education -- advocates want to shift more money from the police budget to social programs -- without discussing public safety.


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