this is the full message I intended to deliver to the Chattanooga City Council on 6⁄9 but I only had 2 minutes instead of 3!
Members of City Council I hope you recognize that the reason so many people are speaking tonight is because this moment is an opportunity. There are people in the streets in all 50 states in the past few weeks; last I saw people in over 1700 cities organize a rally in solidarity. We are all marching with the hope that by risking our lives in the midst of a global pandemic, we can create change that dismantles the white supremacy that our country has been built on. Cities around the country are listening; Minneapolis has voted to disband their police. Philly, New York City and other cities are reducing the police budget.
The current proposed budget for Chattanooga in 2021 seems to me to be a budget for a world that cannot and does not exist anymore. Coronavirus has led to massive unemployment, increasing business loss, and still unfolding financial hardship for so many in our community. And the deaths George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have once again relit the fires for so many to hope for a more just world. These two events must be taken into account in our budget, and to do so requires significant rethinking of how we spend our money.
In the proposed budget, the CPD gets almost a third of the the money we expect to spend in 2021. But the police are only helpful in making sure that nothing in Chattanooga changes. To rise to the challenges we face right now in June 2020 and definitely through 2021 and beyond, we need to be thinking about how to ensure that everyone in Chattanooga has the opportunity to flourish. That means finding a way for everyone to have housing. That means finding a way for everyone to eat every day. That means recognizing the histories of redlining, segregation, income disparities, disability exclusion, and policing inequities that criminalize poverty.
Investing in the police does nothing to change a single one of these injustices that exist and are growing in our communities. When police get involved in a situation, things escalate. They only have the options of harassing people, or arresting people and scooping them into our justice system, which frankly is designed to lock people away, punish them without any rehabilitation, and generally make their lives miserable.
What I and so many others have been marching for is for us as a city to be finished with this status quo. To imagine a city that is so community driven and has such good systems of care for every single person who lives here that we forget that police were ever a thing we felt was necessary for safety. This will not happen overnight. This might not happen in 2021. But it will never happen if you continue to invest in the status quo, rather than taking advantage of this opportunity to remake our city budget to invest in communities, in public transportation, in food security, in safe housing for everyone. There are millions of dollars we could redirect towards these dreams. Please uphold your responsibility to your constituents and defund the police and use that money to create new opportunities for our city. We need to invest in possibility more than ever. If you are not the people who can imagine this future, I promise to work to elect people who can.