Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized activists that called to “defund the police,” arguing that it was self-defeating, Politico reports.
“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama said in a Snapchat interview.
“The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?” he added. “And if you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are. And play a game of addition and not subtraction.”
Obama joins growing chorus:
Top Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn have also rejected the phrase.
President-elect Joe Biden has opposed defunding the police and called for $300 million in additional federal funding to police departments.
If “we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we're not going to win," Clyburn said after the election.
“No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger warned. "We will get fucking torn apart."
Progressives push back:
"We lose people in the hands of police," Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said in response to Obama’s comments. "It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety."
"Rosa Parks was vilified & attacked for her civil disobedience. She was targeted. It's hard seeing the same people who uplift her courage, attack the movement for Black lives that want us to prioritize health, funding of schools & ending poverty, rather than racist police systems," said Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
"The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific," said Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley. "Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists. Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing."