On Sunday afternoon, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced their intention to disband the city’s police department at a rally where hundreds of people gathered to call for changes in police practices. Nine out of 13 council members stood on stage at the rally organized by grassroots organizations Reclaim the Block, the Black Visions Collective and MPD150 to share their support.
“This council is going to dismantle this police department,” council member Jeremiah Ellison said.
“We’re here because we hear you. We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police. We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the president of the Minneapolis City Council said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.”
Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, was handcuffed when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he cried “I can’t breathe.” His death sparked nationwide protests to insist a change in policing. In her statement, Bender pledged “to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
The city council’s vow resulted in cheers from the people at the rally. “Look. At. This,” film director Ava DuVernay wrote in a retweet of the news. One user tweeted “@ everyone in the comments going “ohhh this is such a bad idea” as if the police were effective in the first place,” and included a screenshot of a paragraph from a The Appeal article explaining activists’ long argument of the failure of the MPD.
The decision was also met with criticism. Sheriff James Stewart of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post: "We are one of many agencies who have no appetite for going back to their city to restore order again; especially if their decision is to actively compromise the safety of the city.”
One Twitter user wrote, “The MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL has lost their mind ... They just voted to DISBAND the police department…”
The council’s announcement comes almost a week after the Minnesota Department of Civil Rights Launched an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department after the killing of Floyd. Their probe which will look into the department’s last 10 years of practices, policies and procedures, according to CBS Minnesota. The decision also comes after the University of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation cut all ties with the MPD.
The day before the rally, Black Visions Collective organized a protest against police violence, which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey attended. He was encouraged to answer "yes" or "no," if he believes in defunding the police department.
“I do not support the full abolition of the police department,” he said into the microphone. Frey was met with booing and chants of “go home Jacob, go home.” The Twitter user who posted the video of the event wrote Frey’s leaving was the “most intense walk of shame I’ve ever seen.”