Angelenos have protested for a week over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 today.
“People are at their wits’ end with the lack of accountability and the ability for police to continue to kill, abuse, maim and torture black people. And so George Floyd’s murder is just the tipping point, but it's not just about George Floyd,” says Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
She says a stronger effort to protest and defund the police began after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor — on top of Black unemployment rates and lacking presidential action on COVID-19.
This week, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced cutting $150 million from the LAPD’s budget. Cullors says that’s a good first step in defunding the police. “We still must reduce LAPD budget, reduce their footprint inside our communities, and fund what will save our lives.”
Some argue that cutting funds from law enforcement will endanger communities, but Cullors says officers are often in places where they are not needed, such as mental health incidents.
“Law enforcement being at the scene does not de-escalate the situation. ... It leads to use of force, excessive use of force or deadly force. If you are with a mental illness and law enforcement is a first responder, you're 16 times more likely to be killed by the police,” Cullors says.
Police are also responding to homelessness and drug addiction, and Cullors says health care providers are better suited to handle these issues.
In conversations with law enforcement, Cullors says they agree. “They're like, ‘Why am I dealing [with this]? I wasn't trained for this. This is not why I came onto the force. This is not of interest to me.’”
As a solution, Cullors supports the reallocation of resources, citing the creation of the People’s Budget. “It's about a reprioritization of our resources based off of the needs in our cities and our states and in our country.”
Cullors says these protests are a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Fifty states [and] 18 countries marched — and continue to — in support of Black Lives Matter, making us the largest civil rights movement this country's ever seen. We are not going to go back to normal. We are in a major moment of shifting. And every single person, either you're civilian or an elected official, has to change. … Everything has to change.”
She says protests will continue if communities aren’t seeing changes. “I think people are upset. They're angry. They have been for a long time. I think these protests will last for a long time.”
— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin