George Floyd protests: Minneapolis council members announce 'historic' move to disband city police department

The revelation came a day after Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey was booed for his opposition to the idea of disbanding and defunding the police department

                            George Floyd protests: Minneapolis council members announce 'historic' move to disband city police department
Minnesota police personnel at a protest site over the death of George Floyd (Getty Images)

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has been in the news for the wrong reasons after a black American by the name of George Floyd died at the hands of its officers during a brutal arrest in the city on May 25. The death has had such an impact that starting from Minneapolis, protests erupted throughout the nation and even abroad under the slogans “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t Breathe”. Four cops were fired after their brutal handling of the 46-year-old Floyd, including Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee against the man’s neck and slapped with charges. While Chauvin had murder charges against him, the three others were charged with aiding and abetting murder.

However, on Sunday, June 7, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council came up with a bold statement whereby they said that they will “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department”.

“We recognize that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does. We’re committed to engaging with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for you,” the statement read. It said it would start a “new transformative model for cultivating safety” in the city of Minneapolis.

On June 7, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said: “We’re here because we hear you. We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police. We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe. Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.”

The sight of a Minneapolis police officer forcing his knee against the neck of George Floyd that led to his death has seen violent protests erupting across the US (YouTube)

The council members’ statement surfaced a day after Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey told the protesters that he was not in favor of a complete disbandment of the MPD and it is highly likely that a prolonged debate could kick off over the future of Minnesota’s largest police force. Frey was booed and made to leave demonstrations. He was greeted with chants of "Go home, Jacob" and "shame".

The council’s decision came after some of the city’s high-profile bodies, like Minneapolis Public Schools, University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation severed their old ties with the MPD which has faced relentless criticism in the wake of the Floyd killing which went viral on social media, one report said. 

The nine members got onto a stage at Powderhorn Park to support the members of advocacy group Black Visions who have been vouching for dismantling the MPD. Besides Lender, council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and council members Alondra Cano, Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Andrew Johnson, Jeremy Schroeder and Cam Gordon were present on the stage.  

While some of the council members hinted at what changes might mean, like deploying mental health professionals or social workers to respond to certain emergency conditions, the group did not present any unified version on how they would replace the practice of policing in Minneapolis. Even the Black Visions organizers didn't have a ready replacement for the police department available with them, they said the police couldn't be reformed through measures like training and having body cameras. 

'Minneapolis Police Dept cannot be reformed'

“Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed and will never be accountable for its actions. We are here today to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new, transformative model for cultivating safety in Minneapolis,” the said, earning a standing applause from the group which called the statement “historic”.  

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here