By Samantha Aguilar
May 18, 2021
LOS ANGELES- A year ago, the death of George Floyd and other Black lives reaccelerated the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide, sending millions of people to the streets demanding the reconstruction of the policing system.
In Los Angeles, multiple riots and protests broke out across the city. Black-led organizations, including Black Lives Matter, gathered outside of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home to demand the defunding of the police. The BLM organization’s goal at large is to ending state-sanctioned violence, starting with strengthening their communities.
In June of 2020, Garcetti and the city council finally responded, cutting $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department, promising to reallocate these funds into community resources and services.
“This didn’t happen because of a sense of enlightenment. It’s because of Black death,” said Greg Akili, a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “In every Black person’s life, in every generation, there has been a series of Black death that has been horrific, that has been impactful, that has been shameful…in my lifetime, it was Emmitt Till.
Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are the most recent examples of impactful Black deaths that have triggered movements and forced political and social change, said Akili.
Still, a year later, the fight for the reallocation of these promised funds into the Black community and Black-led organizations continues. These funds are complicated to reallocate to frontline organizations because these organizations are not recognized within the city’s system the way established departments and bureaus are.
Instead of investing funds into resources that the community supports, most of the money is redirected back to city-generated programs.
“Part of our efforts at making sure that we can see and track the dollars, is we help form The People’s Budget LA,” said Akili, “BLM and People’s Budget LA has to fight to open the city and the county so that frontline organizations can actually get access to the money.”
To do this, the People’s Budget Los Angeles, a coalition led by the BLM organization, focuses on citizen participation and engagement to successfully draft a budget that represents the wants and needs of the community. Today, the People’s Budget has collected over 24,000 survey responses, working alongside over 50 organizations to gather input from the most vulnerable communities.
However, in late April, the LAPD requested a $67 million increase to their budget after recent reports showed the department’s failure to respond to riots and protests appropriately. The additional funds would create a bureau specifically designed to handle protests and assemblies in the future. According to the People’s City Budget, about $4.1 million would go toward building the bureau, while $53 million would go toward new training.
On April 25th, the BLM organized responded with a march in the name of George Floyd and recent lives lost at the hands of the police. Protestors gathered in Pan Pacific Park and made their way down 3rd Streets to the Fairfax district, closing off the intersection. They called for the defunding of the LAPD and demanded these funds be redistributed to the hands of the people instead.
“We become safe when we spend our dollars on housing. We become safe when we spend our dollars on mental health resources. We become safe when we spend our dollars on education,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
After several community forums, town halls, educational meetings on the city budget and heavy engagement, BLM and PBLA reconstructed a budget that they say more accurately represented the community needs. On Thursday, the BLM and People’s Budget LA presented the latest budget to the city council.
“The richest communities are not policed because they have resources, and part of our demand is we need the resources,” said Akili.
“Our communities have been divested from because every year we’ve given more money to police, under the guides of ‘you got to contain and control them violent people…them black people.’”
The top areas the community wanted more funds directed toward were housing security, mental health and wellness, public health and healthcare, and public transportation while hoping to see a withdrawal in parking enforcement, police and policing, and the city attorney’s office. 53% of the current budget goes to the police department.
“We don’t need police. You think about the history of the police; their job description has been about oppression. It’s been about terrorism, whether it’s a slave patrol to a klan to the actual official fraternal order of the police.
“They’ve never been a service for the community.”-Felipe Findley, Say Their Names LA organization.
With the addition of funds directed toward the LAPD, BLM and PBLA prepare to continue fighting to fund the community at large. These Black-led organizations continue to work for their members in need.
Their latest accomplishment is passing Measure J, permanently assuring an additional portion of the LA County budget is invested in community resources instead of incarceration systems. They plan to hold the city accountable, assuring Measure J funds are received by the community and frontline organizations.