Since the death of George Floyd during the summer of 2020, progressives have pushed for sweeping new changes to policing in the United States, spawning movements like “Defund the Police.” But these movements are far from popular, and President Joe Biden and a wide range of Democratic lawmakers have rejected the rhetoric entirely.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Minn.), a progressive congresswoman elected during the wave of Democratic victories in 2018, made news recently when she defended a proposed bill that would empty federal prisons within 10 years, with no exception for extremely violent offenders, drug lords, or sex traffickers.
The Tlaib-endorsed bill, called the BREATHE Act, asks the Department of Justice to draw up a “roadmap for prison abolition.” The bill demands the “full decarceration of federal detention facilities within 10 years” and “a moratorium on all new federal prison, jail, immigrant, and youth detention construction.”
Tlaib and other members of “the Squad,” a group comprised of young leftist progressives Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), have adamantly pushed for anti-police and anti-prison initiatives.
Following the death of Daunte Wright in 2021, Tlaib called for “no more policing, incarceration, and militarization,” a call that was echoed by Omar and Pressley.
During the height of anti-police protests, many of which devolved into riots, during the summer of 2020, New York City’s Democratic mayor Bill DeBlasio proposed a $1 billion cut to the New York Police Department’s approximately $6 billion budget.
But New York Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who was outspoken in her defense of the “Defund the Police” movement, rejected the proposal.
“Defunding police means defunding police,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a 2020 statement. “It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools.”
After the Democrats saw disappointing returns in the 2020 House elections, some blamed anti-police rhetoric for the failure. But Ocasio-Cortez continued to defend the movement.
By Joseph Lord