Mpls City Council publicly commits to dismantling police department

Defund The Police Protest on June 6, 2020
Chris Juhn/MSR Files Januada Petrus-Nasha and Ngowo Nuemeh Nasah at defund police protest in Minneapolis on June 6, 2020.

After repeated calls from organizers, community residents, and even some sitting councilmembers, the Minneapolis City Council has publicly committed to exploring the dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).

The news comes after grassroots organizations Black Visions Collective (BVC) and Reclaim the Block met with councilmembers Sunday, June 7 to discuss their ongoing call for divesting the MPD.

All nine councilmembers in attendance—Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham, Alondra Cano, Andrea Jenkins, Jeremiah Ellison, Andrew Johnson, Steve Fletcher, Cam Gordon, and Jeremy Schroeder— committed to the historic decision. Their support stands as a “veto-proof majority for future policymaking.”

The council will work to develop a “new transformative model for cultivating safety in our city” along with policy and budget reviews, said Kandace Montgomery, BVC director, in a recent statement.

The council’s commitment comes after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey refused to publicly commit at BVC’s “Defund The Police” protest on Saturday, June 6. While police oversight is managed by the mayor via city charter, the city council could potentially dismantle the department through budget cuts and ordinances.

Changes are not expected to happen overnight, however.

“We are going to commit to a year’s worth of conversations,” said Ellison, who has been a vocal advocate for dismantling, in an interview Monday with Democracy Now. “It will require every single resident of Minneapolis to give their input. The groundwork is there. Community vision and leadership—this is the only way that we are going to get to a point where we are learning how to keep communities safe without using the police as our singular tool,” he continued.

The groundwork will be framed with input from Minneapolis residents, along with local and national organizers and experts.

“Safety is being able to decide who supports you,” said Arianna Nason of MPD150, in a statement. “We’re not abolishing help. We’re abolishing police. That’s very different…We have to do the work to imagine something different and to listen to what people in different neighborhoods and communities want.”

Cunningham offered a public health perspective to violence prevention during Sunday’s meeting.

“We have no paradigm for policing that is not rooted in White supremacy,” said Cunningham. “We have a paradigm for safety that is rooted in community and justice. We have seen it the last two weeks. The reality is that people have been doing this work for decades and not being paid. We have poured that money into the police department and where has it gotten us?”

Reclaim the Block, BVC and MPD150 have been organizing since 2018 to push Minneapolis to divest from the police department and invest in community resources. 

“It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,” said Montgomery. “George Floyd should not have been murdered for so many people to wake up. It shouldn’t have taken young Black folks risking their lives in these streets, over and over. I want to honor all of the organizers and communities who—for generations—have dreamed and worked to make this day happen.”