Biden Advisors On Both Sides Of Push To Defund Minneapolis Police

Biden Advisors On Both Sides Of Push To Defund Minneapolis Police
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

It’s been a long, violent 14 months in Minneapolis since the death of George Floyd; from the riots and looting that erupted in the city in the immediate aftermath to the steady wave of violent crimes that have pounded neighborhoods in the months since. Minneapolis’ murder rate is already higher than it was last year, and there are few signs that the city has turned a corner when it comes to public safety.

None of that is stopping the activists in Minneapolis who are pushing to dismantle the city’s police department and replace it with a public safety department that would only use police officers “if necessary,” and would instead prioritize a “comprehensive public health approach” to combatting violence. This November, voters in the city will decide the future of the Minneapolis PD, and the Associated Press reports that backers of the “reimagining” of the Minneapolis PD have already raised about $1-million for ad campaigns and voter outreach (including $500,000 from George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center).

“What we knew as public safety — which is only the police right now, the only option that we have — was unacceptable,” said Brian Fullman, lead organizer with one of the groups, Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative. “The murder of George Floyd ignited a lot of historical pain and disrespect that we have been going through, and we made the decision that we no longer wanted to have what we have now as the only option for public safety.”

A majority of City Council members first began pushing to eliminate the police department soon after Floyd’s death, but they failed to meet deadlines to get it on the ballot last November. The Rev. JaNaé Bates, a leader of the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, said the ease with which the campaign gathered signatures shows the momentum for change is still there more than a year after Floyd’s death.

“The residents of Minneapolis really were the ones who made the call for this, who were like, we can’t just let this lesson that took place in the summer to be something that fizzles out, and then what? We just wait for the next person to be killed by the police?” she said.

Despite the high profile death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the much bigger and deeper issue is the civilian-on-civilian violence that’s becoming increasingly commonplace.

Minneapolis police investigated a homicide on Saturday night, Aug. 7, along with a string of other incidents overnight that included shootings, stabbings and an apparent overdose.

Regarding the fatality, police were called to the 600 block of West Broadway Avenue shortly after 9 p.m. on a report of multiple shots fired, according to department spokesman John Elder.

Officers found one seriously injured man in his 30s. He was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where he was pronounced dead.

A second victim, a man in his 30s, arrived at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis on his own with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

Investigators believe the two victims were shot when a passing car fired in the direction of people who were standing outside a business.

Nationally, the defund the police movement has sputtered as violent crime rates have soared in many Democrat-controlled cities, and Democrats themselves have been divided over the push. In fact, as POLITICO recently pointed out, even the White House hasn’t been able to avoid getting dragged in to both sides of the fight.

Two of the president’s top 2020 advisers— JOHN ANZALONE and CELINDA LAKE — are working on opposite sides for a ballot amendment to try to replace Minneapolis’ police department with a “department of public safety” — an effort that opponents have labeled the “defund amendment.”

Biden and his team have been clear: While they back police reforms, they do not support the “defund the police” movement and think it’s a politically toxic message. And, in this case, Anzalone appears to be in their ideological camp.

“We don’t usually discuss clients but I can confirm we work for a group who supports the mayor’s re-election and opposes the defund referendum and supports many of the Biden Administration recommendations on how local governments can use federal support to improve public safety,” Anzalone told us in a text message.

… On the opposite side of the amendment debate is Lake, who also polled for the Biden campaign and who is currently listed on her website as a senior adviser to the president. She confirmed to West Wing Playbook that she is working for Yes 4 Minneapolis but declined to comment further. The Yes 4 Minneapolis group has paid Lake’s company, Lake Research Partners, $33,599.95 thus far to conduct consulting and research, according to a financial disclosure report filed this week.

This may be one the few subjects where I agree with Biden. I too think the defund the police movement is politically toxic, at least outside of a few Democrat-dominated cities. However, I think the supporters of defunding the police recognize that as well. “Defund the police” isn’t a part of the messaging by Yes 4 Minneapolis, even though that’s what their referendum would do. Much like the gun control lobby tried to rebrand itself a few years ago as a “gun safety” movement, those backing the defunding of police would prefer we not use that phrase. Call them reformers or justice advocates if you want, but if they get their way don’t expect to call police to respond to most crimes in Minneapolis.