As the country begins its third week of protests in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, the refrain among Black Lives Matter and anti-racists protesters is “don’t stop protesting.” Why? Because protests make a tangible difference—and fast. In the past two weeks, these protests have resulted in some major policy changes in cities around the United States, ones that hopefully will positively impact communities for many years to come.
A series of viral Instagram graphics created by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund detail some of the progress the the protests have already accomplished in five cities.
In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to vote to disband the police department, per the New York Times. That means they decided not just to defund the police, which would mean taking money away and reinvesting in community programs, but dismantle the force completely, replacing police with trained professionals to respond to different types of calls. Though Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey opposed the decision, the city council has enough votes to overrule his veto power.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to cut the NYPD budget, which currently tops $6 billion, though he has yet to say explicitly how much would be defunded and exactly where that money would go instead.
“We’re committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services, that will happen literally in the course of the next three weeks, but I’m not going to go into detail because it is subject to negotiation, and we want to figure out what makes sense,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Times.
Last Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he would be redirecting$250 million from the police budget into health care, jobs and “healing” programs for the city’s communities of color, per KTLA, a local news station.
“Today we introduced a motion to cut funding to the LAPD, as we reset our priorities in the wake of the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & the #BlackLivesMatter call that we all support to end racism. This is just one small step. We cannot talk about change, we have to be about change,” LA City Council president Nury Martinez tweeted.
Today we intrdcd a motion to cut funding to the LAPD, as we reset our priorities in the wake of the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & the #BlackLivesMatter call that we all support to end racism. This is just one small step. We cannot talk about change, we have to be about change. pic.twitter.com/hR1tBAqwHP
On Sunday, Denver banned the use of chokeholds and said that officers will now be required “to alert supervisors any time they point a gun at someone,” per the Denver Post.
“This shows me that a week of protest did more than 18 months of conversation,” said Elisabeth Epps, an advocate with the Colorado Freedom Fund, on Sunday. “These things are the lowest hanging fruit. It doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to real change. It is not radical to ban a chokehold.”
On Friday, Dallas announced new measures to “formally ban chokeholds and any force intended to restrict a person’s airway,” per the Dallas Morning News, and introduce a policy to “warn before shooting,” along with new body-cam regulations. There will also be a new policy forcing officers to intervene whenever unnecessary force is used.
Not to mention…
The protests have also led to progress in the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery cases, plus a new commitment to justice around police brutality.
“In case you don’t believe protests work, we’ve: Increased Derek Chauvin’s murder charge, had the other three officers charged, reopened Breonna Taylor’s case, reinvested $100 million into communities of color in L.A.,” YouTube vlogger Hyram wrote on Twitter in another viral post, “All in one week. Don’t ever say protesting is useless.”
Furthermore, some of the police officers shown attacking peaceful protesters at Black Lives Matters protests are now facing charges after video footage of these encounters went viral.
In Buffalo, for example, officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were charged with shoving 75-year-old activist and cancer patient Martin Gugino on the sidewalk. Gugino cracked his skull on the pavement and remains in the hospital.
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office just charged an officer, Vincent D’Andraia, in a criminal complaint with misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief, harassment, and menacing after he was recorded shoving a woman to the ground and cursing at her during a peaceful protest, per the New York Times.
While all of this signifies tangible progress, the 2020 protests also signify a shift in public opinion around racism and police brutality. On Monday, CNN released a poll showing that 84 percent of respondents (who were randomly called, and made up of 32 percent Democrats, 25 percent Republicans, and 44 percent Independents) believed that thepeaceful protests are justified. In 2016, only 67 percent of respondents to the same survey believed peaceful protests were justified.
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