Some Democrats fear ‘Massive National Blowback’ if Minneapolis police department is replaced – WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) When activists mobilized this summer to ask Minneapolis voters to replace their police department, one of the first prominent Democrats to beat the plan was a moderate congresswoman who did not even live in the city.

Angie Craig declared it “short-sighted, misleading and likely to harm the communities it seeks to protect.” She warned that it could push the city’s popular black police chief out.

READ MORE: New poll shows Minneapolis residents support amendment of charter replacing police

Craig’s district covers a suburban to rural and politically divided region south of the city, but her willingness to jump into the fight next door highlights the political threat that Democrats like Craig see in the proposal.

As a city that has become synonymous with police abuse, struggling with police reforms, efforts are sharply divided on democratic lines. The state’s best known progressive – US rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison – support the plan, which would replace the Police Department with a new Department of Public Security. Other top Democrats, including Senator Amy Klobuchar and Gov. Tim Walz, are against it.

The debate dominates the city’s mayoral and city council races, the first since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in May 2020 and triggered a global race bill. Adopting the amendment would be a great victory for the reform movement – both in terms of content and symbolism. But many in the Democratic establishment believe that calls to “dismantle” or “disappear” the police cost the party seats in state houses and Congress last year. They are determined not to let that happen again next year. Defeating the Minneapolis measure has become a critical, high-profile test.

“If we talk about reforming the police, people are overwhelmingly positive about it. When we say ‘defund’, we lose the argument, “said Colin Strother, a Democratic strategist in Texas.” Democrats who keep using ‘defund the police’ only hurt themselves and the cause, quite frankly. “

The election proposal, scheduled for election on November 2, asks voters whether they will replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Security that would have a “comprehensive approach to public health” that could “include” police officers “if necessary. ” It does not use the word “defund,” and critics say it was a deliberate attempt by a majority of city council members to hide their goals.

Ellison, a strong supporter of the proposal, said in an interview that amendments simply want “more tools to guarantee public safety, more than just a police model. They want other people who have expertise in mental health, housing, violence reduction” and intervention ”, which is better trained to deal with situations that armed police now face alone.

But he is wary of the phrase “defund the police,” which he called “a cry for reform,” coming from “young people who were completely furious at what happened to George Floyd.”

Minneapolis City Council members gather in Powderhorn Park on June 7, 2020 to declare their intention to abolish Minneapolis police (credit: CBS)

Ellison said he avoids using it, calling it “hot rhetoric, not a policy, not a program” that does not describe exactly what the change would do. And he downplayed the idea that Democrats should be afraid to support the amendment, saying Republicans will attack them no matter how the issue is worded.

Minister JaNaé Bates, spokeswoman for the Yes 4 Minneapolis coalition amendment, said she was frustrated by the division among Democrats. Those who describe the proposal as averting police use “fear-based rhetoric” and a “right-wing whistle for dogs” as a distraction, she said. Police will “definitely” be part of the proposed new agency along with professionals trained to handle situations that armed officers are not suitable for, she said.

“The fact is, Democrats, progressives, liberals across the board want people to be safe, and that’s what this charter change does,” Bates said.

Omar, who represents Minneapolis, claims there is “nothing radical” in the amendment. What was radical, she said in a poll published in the Star Tribune, was how opponents struggled to keep it off the ballot and, in her view, misrepresent what it would do.

The voting issue has attracted a lot of money, with blank mailpieces popping up around town and ads filling social media since shortly before the early voting began in early September.

Yes 4 The Minneapolis campaign has raised over $ 1 million in cash and nearly $ 500,000 in kind from across the country, according to campaign funding reports filed in August. Its money included $ 500,000 in seed money from the Open Society Policy Center, which has ties to billionaire George Soros.

The group has emphasized the need for change and sought to reassure voters that the new structure will make everyone more secure. It has also disputed proposals from opponents that the passage would mean the departure of Medaria Arradondo, the city’s popular black chief, although Arradondo said the passage would put any law enforcement leader in a “completely unbearable position.”

The much newer All members opposed to the change raised more than $ 100,000 in the first few weeks, mostly locally. It has played the uncertainty of how the proposed new department would work, since the change leaves it to the city council and the mayor to find out the details within a short time frame after the election.

The political scientist at the University of Minnesota, Larry Jacobs, credited the “defund” issue with helping Republicans keep their own in Minnesota’s legislative race in 2020 despite Joe Biden winning across the country. He said it was clear to Democrats that “abolishing the police” was effective for Republicans at the time – and could be again.

The American rep. Nicole Malliotakis, from New York, turned a Staten Island seat in 2020 by running against the police. Moderate Democrat Eric Adams, a former captain of the New York Police Department, won the New York City Mayor’s premiere in July on a platform to reject activists’ calls to reject police.

The American rep. New York Democratic congressional campaign committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney has pushed back against the “defund” rhetoric, highlighting that the U.S. rescue plan stimulus proposal signed in March contains $ 350 billion to help support police departments.

“If this thing goes through as many people think and assumes it will, there will be massive national setbacks, not just in Minnesota,” said Republican strategist Billy Grant, whose clients include Craig’s likely opponent, former Marine Tyler Kistner .

‘People will say they showed they can do this. It will have a domino effect. ”

MORE NEWS: Rep. Ilhan Omar Votes support for changing public safety in Minneapolis

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