The Council of the American City of Minneapolis voted late on Sunday to shut down and rebuild the police department, after the death in custody of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests against racism in law enforcement and pushed the issue on the national political agenda.
Floyd was killed on May 25 when White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on the unarmed black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and is due to appear in court Monday.
“We are committed to ending police work as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to build a new model of public safety with our community that actually keeps our community safe,” Council President Lisa Bender told CNN.
However, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is opposed to getting rid of the department, and the head of the city’s powerful police union, Bob Kroll, appeared on the scene last year with President Donald Trump.
A majority of the advisers’ vote came a day after Frey was booed and asked to leave a “Defund the Police” collection. He later told the AFP that he supported “massive structural reform to overhaul this structurally racist system” but not “abolish the entire police department.”
Spectator video of the incident – which captured Floyd calling on his mother and saying he could not breathe – has led to two weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country.
On Sunday, protesters in cities including Washington, New York and Winter Park, Florida, began to focus their outrage over the death of the unarmed Floyd to demands for police reform and social justice.
Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican senator, joined a group of Christian protesters marching toward the White House. He tweeted pictures of himself in the procession, along with the simple caption “Black Lives Matter.”
Although Romney has been a rare Republican opponent to Trump, he was joined last week by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said criticism of Trump was delayed.
Trump’s tough strategy to crack down on protests continued to draw exceptional punishments from top retired military officers, a group that usually refuses to criticize a civilian leader.
Former Chief of Staff Colin Powell joined on Sunday, saying Trump had “pushed” away from the constitution. Powell, a Republican moderate, said Trump had weakened the United States’ position around the world and that in November he would support Democrat Joe Biden.
“This is not a battlefield”
Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, told CBS she would “absolutely” oppose using the military against peaceful protesters, adding: “This is not a battlefield.”
The president has ordered troops from the National Guard to withdraw from the nation’s capital, whose mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat who worked with Trump to use force in his city, told Fox News that there had been no arrests on Saturday despite the protests which saw thousands moving through the capital’s streets.
A week earlier, however, there were fires and vandalism.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told ABC that Washington had been “a city without control” and denied a problem with systemic racism among police.
The Trump administration has not proposed any specific policy changes in response to the widespread outrage over Floyd’s death.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said they would introduce legislation into the House of Representatives on Monday to make police work more accountable.
The legislation is expected to make it easier to sue police over fatal incidents, to ban the type of choking that led to Floyd’s death, and to set up a national database to record police misconduct.
“A lot of work to do”
A member of the caucus, Representative Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief, told ABC that “systemic racism is always the ghost in the room.”
“What we must do as a nation is to hold the police accountable,” said Demings, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for the prospective Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
It is unclear what support the proposed reforms may find in the Republican-controlled Senate – or whether Trump can sign such legislation into law.
Some jurisdictions have already moved to include reforms – from the ban on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to protesters.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Sunday that he would cut the city’s police budget and shift some funds to youth and social services, local media reported.
Trump seized the call from some protesters to cut off police funding to attack Biden and tweeted without evidence that “not only will sleepy Joe Biden return BACK to politics, but he will END OUR MILITARY!”
Sleepy Joe Biden will not only RETURN POLICY, but he will END OUR MILITARY! He has no choice, the Dems are controlled by the radical left.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2020
The president is scheduled to host a roundtable of law enforcement on Monday.
Biden, who has accused Trump of visiting the “flames of hatred,” plans to travel to Houston on Monday to visit Floyd’s family. He will also record a message to be read at Floyd’s funeral on Tuesday.