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Back in the Streets: Do Not Let This Movement Get Co-Opted by Cosmetic Reforms

$150 million is a joke and so is #8cantwait.

Credit: Caroline Johnson | KNOCK.LA

After a week of protesting, both City Council President Nury Martinez and Mayor Eric Garcetti have both called for cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department budget. A move, that two weeks ago, might have seemed unthinkable.

The People’s Budget LA, spearhead by Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles, has been calling on the city to defund the LAPD and reinvest in communities of color.

“We’re encouraged to see that our constant action has pushed Mayor Garcetti and City Council to back up their nice words with some actual action, however small, that directly confronts the racist police state that is the city of Los Angeles,” said Melina Abdulla, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter LA in a press release sent out Wednesday night. “And let’s be clear: this is the result of years of ongoing organizing by Black Lives Matter LA and our coalition partners that laid the ground for the ongoing waves of protests.”

But these reforms proposed by city officials, as they stand, are not enough.

“This demonstrates how impactful our organizing has been after just one week of protests,” said Ina Morton, an organizer with Sunrise Movement Los Angeles and the People’s Budget LA. “We will be fighting for a lot longer because this isn’t close to enough.”

$150 million is just petty change when compared to the $3 billion the LAPD received. With this reduction, LAPD is still getting more money then they were last year (remember, they were getting a $200 million increase — largely allocated for raises, bonuses, and overtime).

The People’s Budget and Black Lives Matters are calling to defund the LAPD and transform the way we look at budgets.

“BLM’s survey showed what a people’s budget would look like if people could give input,” Morton said, “if we could distribute the money the way that the people want it not just the way our council and mayor want it.”

The proposed People’s Budget, made after surveying thousands of Angelenos, looks very different from that of our Mayor. Only 5.72% goes towards law enforcement. The bulk of it goes towards universal aid and crisis management, housing, mental health, and wellness.

Even with the $150 million reduction, almost 54% of the budget would still go to the LAPD.

Mayor Garcetti also proposed some reforms to the LAPD via twitter. Although many of his reforms have already been implemented (note how he applauds our city for being the first city to implement body cams as if they actually reduce police violence. They don’t.)

However, many of these reforms also expand the power of the LAPD. Garcetti plans to expand the LAPD’s mental health intervention training program by an additional 900 people this year.

“Cops have become first responders, they are doing the work of social workers,” said Dr. Robin Petering, a social worker and researcher. “Instead of training cops to be mental health responders, we should invest in the mental health responders that we have here, that have spent years gaining their expertise, here.”

According to Dr. Petering, LA has the most social workers per capita in the county, based on the number of schools and programs. 5,000 social workers graduate every year, with thousands of years of training.

When cops make mental health calls (usually on the street) it leads to more death and more wrongful incarceration.

The Mayor also called to expand the juvenile diversion program a program run by the Mayor’s office and the LAPD. (There are plenty of other programs that can help reduce gang violence without the aid of the LAPD).

The Mayor also called to put a moratorium on the CalGang database, which according to Petering, should be “burned down.” The database has not proven to decrease homicide in Los Angeles, and many of the people included in it were falsely portrayed as gang members by the LAPD.

These are not systematic reforms, these are empty words and a lazy reshuffling of money.

Let’s also ground ourselves in the fact that Garcetti tweeted these reforms on the same day that he called on the National Guard to surround protesters at a peaceful protest calling for the firing of DA Jackie Lacey.

It was also the day after half a thousand people called into the Police Commissioner’s meeting and for eight hours called for the firing of Police Chief Michael Moore. The fact that the YouTube video has over a million views as of publishing time should not be lost on anyone.

It’s not just our “progressive” elected officials championing toothless change, Democrats and celebrities are advocating for the #8cantwait” campaign.

We’re talking people like Oprah, Chelsea Clinton, Ariana Grande, and Janice Hahn.

This campaign, launched June 3rd by Campaign Zero, claims that it will reduce civilian killings by police by 72% (leaving us with a measly third of police killings remaining).

The campaign calls for eight reforms, featuring winners like “require warning before shooting,” “require all use of force to be reported,” and the utterly understandable “establish use of force continuum.” For the record, the latter means police have to kick you harder and harder before they shoot you.

Five of the eight reforms that they are fighting for have already been implemented in Los Angeles — yet we still have one of the deadliest police forces in the country.

“I have seen a huge backlash from #8cantwait,” Morton said, “it’s a perfect example of wealthier whiter neo-liberalism co-opting these movements.” You’ll notice, that while Black Lives Matter has been leading this fight for years, none of their demands are listed as part of #8cantwait.

#8cantwait, as well as the moves by our Mayor and City Council, are cosmetic reforms that will not address the systematic inequality leading to the murder of Black People.

“City Council and Mayor Garcetti need to know that we’re fighting for truly transformative change here and won’t be bought off with just this minimal amount of money,” Abdula said.

So, stay in the streets. Stay protesting.

Follow Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles, Ground Game LA, the People’s City Council, LA CAN, Stop LAPD Spying, and other Los Angeles activist groups.

We won’t be satisfied with crumbs. Don’t stop until we get real, meaningful reform.

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