Coinciding with the #BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused grassroots movements unfolding today, an open letter calling for local governments to decrease police budgets has been shared by Movement 4 Black Lives, a coalition of more than 100 Black-rights organizations.
The letter, which calls for local governments to increase funding for healthcare, education, and community programs, has already been signed by prominent Black artists like Common, John Legend, Lizzo, The Weeknd, Talib Kweli, and Taraji P. Henson. Other celebrities backing the letter include Natalie Portman, Jane Fonda, and ACLU executive director Anthony Romero.
The letter emphasizes the impact of COVID-19 on Black communities, and demonstrates how its medical and economic consequences helped contribute to the wave of unrest caused by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
It reads, in part:
“The COVID-19 deaths and the deaths caused by police terror are connected and consequential to each other. The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too. Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the US Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing ‘costs.’”
“Vote no on all increases to police budgets,” it goes on to urge. “Vote yes to decrease police spending and budgets.”
The reallocated funds, the letter posits, could “go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future.”
Black Lives Matter and Movement 4 Black Lives co-founder Patrisse Cullors elaborated in an interview with Variety.
“Yes, a demand to defund essentially means, what places does law enforcement have money that is unnecessary? Law enforcement should not be the first responder for mental-health crises, they shouldn’t be the first responders for drug and alcohol abuse; there are a significant number of public health crises that law enforcement are forced to be the first responders to but should not be, and we could actually reallocate those dollars and give them back to the community. I’m talking about renegotiation of where we prioritize our money. Right now it’s mostly prisons and police, and we want to reallocate those dollars and put them into the community.”
You, too, can add your name to the letter by heading here.
Looking for even more ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved