Some progressive Democrats aren’t happy with former President Barack Obama after he chastised them for using the “defund the police” slogan.
Political candidates alienate voters when they use “snappy” slogans such as “defund the police,” Obama said during an interview with Peter Hamby on the Snapchat original political show “Good Luck America” that aired Dec. 2.
“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama said. “The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?”
For progressives these were fighting words.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) responded to Obama, “We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety.”
Other members of The Squad also pushed back against Obama’s comments.
“Rosa Parks was vilified & attacked for her civil disobedience. She was targeted. It’s hard seeing the same people who uplift her courage, attack the movement for Black lives that want us to prioritize health, funding of schools & ending poverty, rather than racist police systems,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said she’s “out of patience” with people who criticize the language activists use.
“The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific,” Pressley tweeted. “Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists. Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing.”
Kentucky state Rep Charles Booker reminded Obama about Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot dead in her own Louisville apartment by police in March during a botched raid. “We didn’t lose Breonna because of a ‘slogan’,” Booker said, according to an NBC News report.
Cori Bush, who made history by becoming the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress, responded to Obama. “Defund the police” is “not a slogan,” she said. “It’s a mandate for keeping (Black) people alive.” Bush cited the fatal police shootings of Taylor and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
“With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people,” Bush tweeted. “We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence. It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police.”
Others responded on Twitter.
“You also lose people with 40 years of neoliberal policies, drone strikes, increased wage gaps, housing crises, incarceration but the hashtag is where you draw the line, hunh?”
If defund messaging isn’t working, come up with a better plan, The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin tweeted. “Don’t use defund messaging on the streets. Don’t loot, no excuses. Don’t blow up police stations & be violent to get attention. What’s your plan & vision then? You’re coming w/ bold, innovative plan? Them: More $ & training. More of the same. Me: Ok. Watch what’s next.”
A Twitter user lashed out harshly, saying “Obama is a villain. He is here to steal, kill and destroy people powered movements. He’s only come out the past 4yrs to stop progress. From BLM, to NBA strikes, to the 2020 primaries, and now defunding the police, etc. with all the disrespect, fuck Obama and the clique he claims!”
The “defund the police” movement wants to redirect funds away from police departments toward other government agencies and community resources. It grew following Floyd’s death in May at the hands of Minneapolis police. Some cities have already reallocated funding from their police department budgets, including New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Fox News reported.
Obama is not a lone voice against the movement. Many elected Democrats have spoken out against it as have various Black community leaders, who are pushing instead for retraining of police.
Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat, said in November that slogans such as “defund the police” ultimately hurt the party.
“Some titles hurt,” Richmond said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “‘Defunding the police’ is a title that hurts Democrats, especially when the fact of the matter is nobody is calling for defunding the police. We’re calling for reinventing how we police communities in this country, how we do criminal justice.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.
In New York City, Black city council members are fighting against defunding the police. During a debate last summer, some Black and Latino council members who represent poor and middle-class Black communities and communities of color urged a measured approach to slashing the police budget. Two Black council members called for major cuts and reforms, along with white progressives and some Latino council members in gentrifying and racially mixed neighborhoods.
During the debate, NYC Council majority leader Laurie Cumbo, a Black councilwoman from Brooklyn, compared calls to defund the police to “colonization” pushed by white progressives. Robert Cornegy Jr., a Black councilman also from Brooklyn, called the defund the police movement “political gentrification.”