FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Howie Hawkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
HAWKINS BLASTS DEMOCRATS’ REJECTION OF “DEFUND THE POLICE”
(Syracuse, NY – June 10, 2020) – Howie Hawkins, the Green Party presidential candidate with a commanding lead in the party’s primaries, blasted Democratic Party leaders today for rejecting the popular demand “Defund the Police” that is being raised by the nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
“Democratic leaders have no convictions and no backbone. A nationwide uprising for racial justice demands defund the police. Trump calls it the demand of ‘Radical Left Democrats.’ So Democratic leaders cave and join Trump in rejecting it. It’s just like their retreat from popular demands for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal because Trump called them ‘socialist’,” Hawkins said.
Joe Biden said this week he opposes defunding the police and wants to increase federal funding for them by $300 million. James Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip, said demonstrators making this demand were trying to “hijack” the movement. Karen Bass (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the demand a “distraction.”
“Defunding the police means to stop paying police to harass, exploit, and control poor communities of color over non-criminal behavior and low-level offenses like homelessness, drug possession, and mental health crises. It means scaling back policing to dealing with serious crimes of violence and theft. It means investing the savings in real solutions, like homes for the homeless, legalizing marijuana, and medical treatment for the addicted and mentally ill,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins noted that an analysis of FBI and national survey data by the Vera Institute for Justice found that violent offenses make up less than 5% of arrests and property crimes less than 13% of arrests by police. The study also found that about 60% of crime victims do not report their experience to the police and that the police clear less than 25% of reported crimes with arrests.
“The police are doing a terrible job solving serious crimes because they spend most of their time harassing people, particularly Black people, for non-criminal or minor violations,” Hawkins said.
“Defunding the police is just a start,” Hawkins said. “We could cut local police budgets down to the less than 20% now devoted to dealing with violent and property crimes and there still won’t be nearly enough money in savings to repair damages of the discrimination, exclusion, poverty, and economic despair that low-income communities of color have long suffered. We must demand a Marshall Plan for the Cities and an Economic Bill of Rights.”
Hawkins called for a sustained multi-trillion dollar federal investment in affordable public housing, community schools with wrap-around services, neighborhood health clinics, grocery stores in food deserts, more convenient and affordable public transit, parks and recreation programs, a job guarantee, and a guaranteed income above poverty. Hawkins’ budget for an ecosocialist Green New Deal is a 10-year, $42 trillion program to create 38 million new jobs providing these community needs as well as climate safety by rebuilding all productive systems in the economy for zero-to-negative carbon emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030.
Hawkins reiterated his support for reparations for African-Americans. He called on Congress to use the current outcry against police brutality and racism to enact the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (H.R. 40; S. 1083).
Congressional Democrats have unfurled a Justice in Policing Act that would boost law enforcement accountability and change policing practices. Among its measures are a ban on chokeholds, money for racial bias training, ending the qualified immunity that shields police officers from personal liability in civil lawsuits, a federal registry for misconduct complaints and disciplinary actions against police, and limits on the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local police departments.
“These reforms are good as far as they go, but they do not go nearly far enough,” Hawkins said. “Police harassment and brutality persist because we allow the police to police themselves. The Justice in Policing Act does nothing to change that.”
Hawkins renewed his call for community control of the police in which elected police commissioners hire and fire police chiefs, independently investigate and punish police misconduct, oversee police budgets, and negotiate police union contracts.
“We have to democratize who governs the police so that the police work for the community instead of just themselves and the power structure’s elites,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the Justice in Policing Act’s grants for state Attorneys General to independently investigate and prosecute police brutality cases are a weak remedy. Hawkins has long called for a Jonny Gammage Law that would require a federal investigation and prosecution in all cases where the civil rights of a person are violated by police, including bodily injury and death.
Jonny Gammage was suffocated to death by police in October 1995 years ago just as George Floyd was on May 25. Gammage was a resident of Hawkins’ home town of Syracuse, New York. He died at the hands of suburban Pittsburgh police in a routine traffic stop while visiting his cousin, Ray Seals, who played football for the Steelers. None of the officers were convicted of any crimes. The Clinton Justice Department declined a civil rights action against them.
Hawkins said local District Attorneys are too close to local police they work with on a daily basis to have the distance and independence for impartial investigations. He said the Justice for Policing Act’s funding for voluntary investigations by state Attorneys General was too weak.
“We need mandatory federal investigations in these cases in order to break through the shielding of police misconduct by local prosecutors,” Hawkins said.