Minneapolis declares racism a public health emergency

Minneapolis declares racism a public health emergency
© getty: A memorial left for George Floyd who died in custody on May 26, 2020 is viewed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The Minneapolis City Council approved a resolution Friday declaring racism a public emergency nearly two months after the high-profile killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

The resolution says that “racism in all its forms causes persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes in many areas of life, including housing, education, health, employment, public safety and criminal justice; exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis” and commits city leaders to recognize the “severe impact of racism on the wellbeing of residents and the city overall.” 

"Systemic racism is among the greatest long-term threats our city and nation are facing, and the last two months have made that reality painfully clear," Mayor Jacob Frey (D) said in a press release. "For Minneapolis to be a place where everyone can live and thrive, we must recognize this crisis for what it is and approach policymaking with the urgency it deserves."

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The resolution cites several studies saying that “Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police as white people in this country” and that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by health issues including cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high infant and maternal mortality rates.

"Racism in all its forms causes persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes in many areas of life, including housing, education, health, employment, public safety and criminal justice; exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis," the resolution reads.

Among the action items adopted as part of the resolution are decarceration and only making arrests for “violent and other major crimes,” “easing and dismissing” cash bail and crafting a “comprehensive rapid response protocol to immediate needs and long-term work to address systemic inequities.” 

A majority of the Minneapolis City Council has already vowed to disband the local police department and replace it with a new model of public safety, part of growing nationwide calls to shift some police funding to more social services. 

“This action is the first step in long overdue restorative measures for our BIPOC community,” said City Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, referring to Black, indigenous and people of color. “The passing of this resolution means that we as local elected officials understand that antiracism must be centered in all that we do as we work to ensure that Minneapolis is at the forefront of achieving racial equity.”