Multiple high profile artists including John Legend, The Weeknd and Lizzo have called on artists to sign a letter calling for the defunding of the police in favor of health care, education and other community programs. This letter was released by activist Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and a founding member of the Movement 4 Black Lives.
The letter openly denounces the deaths of black Americans such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, alongside many others who have passed away during officer related incidents. It also points out that the country has the highest COVID-19 death count, which is also predominantly higher in black communities.
Signing this letter indicated a pledge to vote no on increased police budgets, while voting yes to decrease their budget. It also calls on people to vote in support of spending on community, health and education programs across the country.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 3, 2020
“The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too,” the letter reads. “Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the U.S. Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing ‘costs.'”
This recent signing follows the prominent protests across this country against police brutality and systemic racism, following the death of George Floyd, who passed away soon after fired Police Officer Derek Chauvin was caught pressing his knee against his neck on video. Chauvin, along with four other officers involved with the incident, are now in custody due to their suspected involvement with Floyd’s death.
Read the full letter below:
Black communities across the nation are mourning the deaths of George Floyd, tortured to death by Minneapolis police, Ahmaud Arbery, a jogger who was killed while running in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, Breonna Taylor an EMT killed while asleep in her bed in Louisville,KY, Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis and Tony McDade in Tallahassee. Their names are added to a devastatingly long list of Black people who have been killed at the hands of vigilantes or law enforcement. Not to mention the others whose names we don’t yet know, and may never know since they were killed without a camera recording it.
At the same time, the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases. So far, more than 100,000 people — enough to fill a football stadium– have perished from the virus, with over one million cases confirmed, and those numbers don’t reflect all the people dying from virus-related illnesses. Black people are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, four times more likely to die than their white neighbors.
It is important to state this within the context of the scourge of anti-Black police terror and the resulting uprisings taking place across the U.S. The COVID-19 deaths and the deaths caused by police terror are connected and consequential to each other. The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too. Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the US Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing “costs”.
The time has come to defund the police.
Black communities are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities like police, immigration agents or even white vigilantes who are emboldened by state actors. According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.
Where could that money go? It could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future. The possibilities are endless.
We join in solidarity with the freedom fighters in Minneapolis, Louisville, and across the United States. And we call for the end to police terror.
We call for defunding of police and for those dollars to be rerouted to create a public national healthcare system.
Join us in demanding your local officials take the pledge to:
Vote no on all increases to police budgets
Vote yes to decrease police spending and budgets
Vote yes to increase spending on Health care, Education, and Community programs that keep us safe.