Movement 4 Black Lives, a collective comprised of over 100 black rights organizations, penned an "open demand" letter aiming to convince those in power to defund the police, and reallocate those funds towards other important causes. The initiative has received signatures from a number of celebrities, like John Legend, Natalie Portman, The Weeknd, Lizzo, Brie Larson, Talib Kweli, and Jane Fonda, Rolling Stone reports. All signees vow to implore their local officials to decrease the police budget while also pledging to use their right to vote to "increase spending on Health care, Education, and Community programs that keep us safe."
"Where could that money go?," the letter reads. "It 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. The possibilities are endless."
Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors explained to Variety that the term "defunding" means reducing the budget devoted to the police department. "I'm talking about renegotiation of where we prioritize our money," Cullors said. "Right now its mostly prisons and police, and we want to reallocate those dollars and put them into the community."
"Here in Los Angeles alone, the City Council spends 54% of its budget on the LAPD - that is an exorbitant amount of money going toward one agency, especially when other agencies' budgets either don’t increase or are cut every year," Cullors explained. The letter notes that state and local governments increased spending on police and corrections from 1977 to 2017 by 220 percent.
New York Daily News reports that in his latest budget proposal, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to slash $23.8 million for the NYPD, a seemingly honorable move at face value. However, this reduction in spending only represents a less than 0.4 percent change. In comparison, the Department of Education is facing a 3 percent cut. Meanwhile, in Oakland, nearly half of the city's discretionary funds ($264 million) from 2017-19 were devoted to the police.
Read the Movement 4 Black Lives open letter here.