‘Squad’ congresswomen propose bill to defund police
Two members of the “Squad,” a group of female progressive House members, are proposing a new bill that calls for defunding police departments and instead establishing a program to pay reparations to African Americans and others who have been harmed by police in the past.
Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D) and Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D) announced their BREATHE Act on a Tuesday conference call. The call featured Marc Lamont Hill, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors, the mothers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and more, as well as a short performance by John Legend.
“We can start to envision through this bill a new version for public safety a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms black lives,” Tlaib said. “We must invest in a new vision of public safety. Today, I am proud to join the calls coming out of one of the largest movements for justice that my district and our country have ever seen to say unapologetically: I support the #BREATHEAct,” she later tweeted.
Cullors called the bill a watershed moment.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants and there has been 400 years of work that Black people have done to try to get us closer to freedom,” Cullors said. “This moment is a watershed moment. I think this moment calls for structural change and transformative change in ways that we haven’t seen in a very long time. We see this opportunity to push for the BREATHE Act as a part of what we’re calling the modern-day civil rights act.”
Under the proposed bill, federal funds to local police and federal agencies would be slashed and diverted to pay for health care, education, environmental housing programs. In addition, it would offer a 50 percent savings match for states to close down detention facilities and prisons, the elimination of gang databases and the forgiving of all fees and surcharges within the justice system.
The bill also calls for the passing of the Commission to Study Reparation Proposal for African-Americans Act and establishes commissions to design reparations for mass incarceration to include those caught up in the War on Drugs, border and police violence and the systemic violation of the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to tribal nations.
The bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House, as many do not support defunding the police, a movement that grew out of nationwide anger over the death of George Floyd. So far the other half of the “Squad” New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D) have not signed on.
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