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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Our elected officials have abandoned BLM

**Trigger Warning: This article contains a detailed depiction of death.**

For months—because it has been months since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and subsequent Israeli slaughter—the movement for Gaza has reminded me of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. There are many similarities: The double-standard of the press for white protestors vs. Brown and Black protestors, the painting of retaliation against oppression as “violent terrorism,” and crucially, the way government officials have completely ignored the plight of people of color.  

Despite running in 2021 on promises of police reform and police budget cuts, Mayor Wu blocked progressive city council members from shrinking the 2023 police budget, instead opting to increase it by $9 million, according to WBUR [1]. Money cut from the police budget would have been reallocated to the Office of Participatory Budgeting, which allows citizens of Boston to have their opinions included in the next fiscal year’s budget.  

She promised police reforms in its place, which came in December of 2023; according to WGBH, in addition to a 21 percent pay increase over five years, the new contract included a provision allowing officers to be fired without arbitration for serious crimes such as rape and attempted murder [2]. That’s it. Notably, domestic violence was not included in the list of crimes—I suspect too many officers would have been fired on the spot.  

Boston isn’t the only city where mayors, once elected, have mysteriously forgotten their campaign promises. In 2021, Eric Adams, a former police officer and “moderate” Democrat, won his New York mayoral race by promising more aggressive policing, according to Reuters [3]. Mayors like these often cite the surge of crime in late 2020 and early 2021 as a problem requiring serious policing; in Atlanta, a city infamous then for its over-policing and now for its “Cop City,” [4] the 2021 race came down to a vote between a candidate promising 250 more officers, and one promising 750 more officers. Not even a year after the BLM protests, and so-called “leftist” Democrats had already started ignoring the movement.  

The solution to crime is not more policing, but more reforms. This seems like the obvious solution, considering how expensive police budgets are—the Boston police budget alone is $405 million [1]—but it doesn’t seem to be the solution government officials want to consider. Simply put, it’s much easier to continue to criminalize homelessness and poverty than it is to institute wide-sweeping reforms. That 2021 crime spike was obviously a result of COVID-19. To dig a little deeper, though, the crimes that saw the highest increases were hate crimes, specifically anti-Black and anti-Asian crimes, according to an article published by the National Institute of Health [5]. Governments, after years of being urged by people of color to take action and protect them, used the increase of hate crimes to justify even more police.  

Record numbers of people were killed by police in 2023, according to the Guardian. Over 1,200 people were killed by the police last year—the highest in more than a decade—and, of course, Black Americans were on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of the violence. Thirty-nine percent of Black people were killed by police while fleeing. Only 38 percent of the crimes’ victims were alleged to have committed were violent offenses; 22 percent were non-violent crimes, nine percent were traffic violations, eight percent were mental health or welfare checks and six percent involved no crime having been committed [6]. 

There are too many stories to count of police brutality across America. At the end of December 2023, the Guardian reported that a 27-year-old mother, Niani Finlayson, was shot four times in her home in Los Angeles as her 9-year-old daughter watched [7]. Finlayson, who was on the phone with 911 at the time, had called police about her then-boyfriend because she felt he was putting her daughter in danger. When police arrived, she was defending herself from her boyfriend with a kitchen knife. Ty Shelton murdered her within three seconds of entering her home.  

Three seconds.  

Finlayson’s daughter later said, “She was my best friend. She was always there for me. It’s very unbelievable that she’s gone and not coming back. I miss my mom.” The police are not, and never have been, safe for Black Americans, and they face no repercussions for their brutality; as of time of writing, Ty Shelton has not been officially fired or charged for Finlayson’s murder. There aren’t enough hours in the day to read about every story just like this one, and these murders unfold every day across the country.  

The Biden administration’s response to this epidemic of police killings, as CNN quoted from his State of the Union Speech: “We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training.” [8] Biden’s callous dismissal of Black and Brown Americans seems to be the only issue where Democrats and Republicans agree. His position as a moderate hasn’t allowed him to reach across the aisle, but allowed Republicans to drag the country further and further to the right. What America needs is another summer of BLM—and for our government to listen this time.  

 

SOURCES: 

[1] https://www.wbur.org/news/2023/06/29/city-council-approves-budget-police-department  

[2] https://www.wgbh.org/news/local/2023-12-05/boston-police-union-agrees-to-new-contract-including-some-reforms 

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/democratic-cries-defund-police-fade-us-mayoral-races-crime-surges-2021-10-29/ 

[4] https://theintercept.com/2023/11/15/cop-city-protest-police-atlanta-tear-gas/  

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9805993/  

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/jan/08/2023-us-police-violence-increase-record-deadliest-year-decade 

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/dec/29/la-police-fatally-shot-niani-finlayson-body-camera 

[8] https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/02/politics/defund-the-police-biden-state-of-the-union/index.html  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor