Story at a glance
- A petition created by a Black Lives Matter movement co-founder calls for defunding police departments across the U.S. to instead support better public health initiatives.
- Celebrities like John Legend, Common and Jane Fonda have reportedly signed in support of the proposal.
After many celebrities donated to fund bail for protesters arrested while demonstrating against police brutality, more high-profile stars are also leveraging their fame and influence to call for systemic changes.
Celebrities like John Legend and Megan Rapinoe are among others who recently signed a petition that highlights two issues disproportionately affecting black communities: police brutality and a lack of access to quality health care.
The letter calls for local governments to decrease spending on police departments and reallocate money towards education and health care to better protect vulnerable populations — especially now during the coronavirus pandemic.
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“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 petition reads. “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 proposal has already received the attention of some big names in the entertainment industry.
According to Rolling Stone, John Legend and Megan Rapinoe joined Common, The Weeknd, Jane Fonda, Yada Shahidi and Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, in signing the petition.
The open document was reportedly authored by civil rights activist Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter movement and the coalition Movement 4 Black Lives.
The letter cites data from The Urban Institute, noting that over the past 40 years, state and local governments have collectively spent billions in taxpayer funding on police and correctional institutions, starting with $60 billion in 1977 and growing to $194 billion in 2020 — a 220 percent increase.
The petition says that increased law enforcement funding has led to the continued harassment and killing of black communities by a systemically racist police force. The authors say that the money should be invested instead in neighborhood infrastructure, child care and education.
“Where could that money go?” The petition asks. “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.”
The authors also note that military and police funding continue to increase while spending on public health has decreased. The letter highlights in particular that the Trump administration eliminated the U.S. Pandemic Response Team in 2018 to cut costs. Outlets report that resource and administration priorities were behind the decision.
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