Illinois Activists Still Pushing To Defund Police

In the wake of the 2020 elections that saw Democrats’ hopes for a “blue wave” sputter out in House, Senate, and state legislative races, we’ve seen a lot of finger pointing between the socialist wing of the party and the progressive wing (there is no truly “moderate” wing of the Democratic Party, in my opinion) as to who’s to blame. Socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argue that Democrats in swing districts should have embraced a far-Left agenda, while progressives like Abigail Spanberger of Virginia say that voters were turned off by talk of socialism and defunding the police.

Even Bernie Sanders has backed away from the toxic messaging of defunding the police, saying that he doesn’t know a single candidate who had spoken about defunding law enforcement. That’s a silly argument, because AOC herself has called specifically for defunding law enforcement, but Sanders’ caveat focusing on candidates ignores the fact that a good chunk of the Democrats’ base is still embracing the idea.

In Evanston, Illinois over the weekend, local activists staged a sit-in outside the home of local Alderwoman Ann Rainey demanding that the city councilwoman vote in favor of a proposal that would strip Evanston’s police department of 75% of its budget. Members of the group Evanston Fight for Black Lives say the sit-in is just the first of many to come.

“The longer you wait (to defund police), the more people could potentially die from police,” EFBL organizer Maia Robinson said. “That’s why it’s urgent, and why we keep putting pressure on.”

Saturday morning marked the first of ten EFBL sit-ins. The demonstrations are an effort to pressure aldermen into voting down a budget that fails to “substantively” defund EPD and reinvest the funds into community services and alternative safety plans.

Members from Northwestern-based activist group NU Community Not Cops attended the sit-in. At Saturday’s action, EFBL organizers also demanded Rainey not seek re-election.

The proposed 2021 budget would eliminate 11 police officer positions, including four current vacancies, to save the city up to $1.8 million. Instead of reallocating the money into social services, which many local organizers are calling for, the city is cutting the funds to bridge a coronavirus-driven deficit, city manager Erika Storlie said.

Those cuts don’t go nearly far enough for activists, though even in far-Left Evanston their demands don’t seem to be getting a lot of traction with local officials like Rainey. The alderwoman met with members of the group for about half an hour on Saturday, but wasn’t persuaded to sign on to their efforts

“We have a difference of opinion,” Rainey said to organizers. “I do not believe that our police department has a long history of brutalizing, and I don’t think you can compare anything in our police department with George Floyd.”

EFBL organizers said the police killing of George Floyd shouldn’t be the bar by which leaders assess racism in policing.

Additionally, they said EPD officers still traumatize and harass people, referencing recent instances of police brutality against two Black men: Lawrence Crosby in 2015 and Trent Hunt in 2020.

“The issues that are happening in our police department are part of institutional racism.” an organizer said. “You cannot change institutions built on racism with reform.”

Many Democrats would love for the Defund Police movement to disappear, but they’re not likely to get their wish. In fact, don’t be surprised if the issue poses some challenges for Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in their runoff elections against incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Georgia. While both men have been trying hard to portray themselves as moderate Democrats, Ossoff has spoken in the past about putting funding for police departments “on the line,” and the Perdue campaign is already highlighting Ossoff’s language to bolster their claims that Ossoff would be a reliable vote for an anti-law enforcement legislative agenda.

I’m not expecting Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her “squad”-mates to issue any stinging rebukes of Ossoff or Warnock for their attempts at moderation in Georgia, by the way, or at least not until after the election is over. The socialist wing of the Democratic party is well aware of the fact that if their legislative agenda is going to have any chance at all, they need both Ossoff and Warnock to win their seats on January 5th, which would give Democrats 50 votes in the Senate and allow for a Vice President Kamala Harris to potentially cast a tie-breaking vote on controversial measures like the Green New Deal, gun control, and funding for law enforcement.

Over at HotAir, my friend Ed Morrissey says Democrats are facing an uphill climb in the runoff elections, and a big reason why is that the supposed moderation of Ossoff and Warnock is simply a lie. When it comes to the Second Amendment, for example, Ossoff actually ran campaign ads telling voters that he would protect the Second Amendment, even though Everytown for Gun Safety proudly endorsed the candidate in his race against David Perdue.

Similarly, Raphael Warnock has done everything possible to avoid talking about gun control on the campaign trail, but even with his silence the anti-gun group Brady is backing Warnock, because they know that he’ll be a reliable vote in favor of new gun control measures if he’s in the Senate. Ossoff and Warnock are running for Senate, but in doing so they’re also running from their records and previous statements on our Second Amendment rights, public safety, and funding for police.