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A group supporting the abolition of the Minneapolis Police Department raked in nearly $1 million from liberal special interest organizations, including from many who do not live near the city.
The group, Yes 4 Minneapolis, successfully pushed to place a ballot initiative before voters in November that will ask whether the city should scrap the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety. Voters will be asked if they support amending the Minneapolis charter to eliminate the existing Police Department and create a new body focused on a “comprehensive public health approach” to maintaining order, according to the language of the initiative.
The liberal group raised roughly $983,000 in direct and in-kind contributions, according to campaign finance documents filed this week.
MoveOn.org, a left-wing advocacy group focused on social justice and liberal political issues was the biggest contributor to Yes 4 Minneapolis with its in-kind donations. In April and May, the prominent national organization lent the Minneapolis group access to its email lists valued at $430,383.
Donations poured in from around the country, from San Francisco and Seattle to Washington, D.C., and New York City, although the group describes itself as a “coalition of residents, neighbors, businesses, organizations, faith communities, and families across the city” focused on “local democracy” in Minneapolis, according to its website.
Policing in Minneapolis burst into the national spotlight last year after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck in a video that sparked months of protests across the country.
A movement to strip police departments of funds and allocate them instead to social justice programs emerged from the unrest that followed Floyd’s death, with activists in Minneapolis and beyond pressuring city leaders to slash law enforcement budgets.
Minneapolis already cut $8 million from its police budget this year, redirecting the money to programs outside of law enforcement.
The city has lost roughly 200 officers over the past year, as dozens opted to retire early or take extended leave in the wake of last summer’s unrest.
At least 75 police officers took medical leave for post-traumatic stress disorder after the 2020 riots, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The department faces a staffing shortage as violent crime proliferates in the city.
Homicides are on the rise, climbing 16% this year over the same seven-month stretch in 2020.
Crime has climbed in cities across the country as well, increasing in some cities that defunded their police departments in response to the racial tensions of last year.
The cuts have affected everything from staffing levels to the ability of officers to respond to 911 calls.
Seattle, for example, cut $46 million from its Police Department budget for 2021 and later saw its response times to 911 calls grow significantly longer due to an exodus of officers.
While many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have worked to distance the party from the anti-police rhetoric that led to law enforcement budget cuts in the U.S., others have continued to advocate for the unpopular approach.
Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat and a member of the “Squad” in the House came under fire this week when she defended her reliance on expensive private security while pushing to take money away from law enforcement more broadly.
“Defunding the police has to happen,” Bush said during an appearance on CBS News. “We need to defund the police and put that money into social safety nets because we’re trying to save lives.”