Activists Vow to Fight For Reform After Minneapolis Votes to Keep Police

Activists and campaigners have pledged to continue fighting for reform after Minneapolis voters rejected a proposition to disband the city's police department.

The proposed amendment to the city charter would have removed the requirement for Minneapolis to have a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population and replaced it with a new Department of Public Safety that had "a comprehensive public health approach to safety."

But Minneapolis voted 56 percent to 43 percent to keep the police department in place almost 18 months after George Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a police officer in the city, prompting a national reckoning on race and igniting calls to "defund" larger police departments. Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for Floyd's murder earlier this year.

Supporters had argued that a total overhaul of policing is needed to stop police violence, while opponents warned there was no clear plan for how the new department would operate and that it would leave some communities more vulnerable amid rising crime.

We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like. We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and of the people. Now, we will work to hold the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities.

— Yes On Question 2 (@Yes4Minneapolis) November 3, 2021

Yes 4 Minneapolis, which spearheaded the push for a new safety department, vowed to keep working towards change despite the defeat.

"We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like," the group wrote on Twitter. "We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and of the people. Now, we will work to hold the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities."

The Minnesota-based Black Visions Collective said it was disappointed by the results, but added that they "do not change the fact that the system we have is not keeping us safe."

In a statement provided to Newsweek, the organization said: "While we are disappointed in the final results, there is so much to celebrate about this moment and this movement."

It added: "To address the challenges facing our city and create real safety for all of Minneapolis, we need innovative solutions and public investment to make them successful. Dismantling and abolishing violent institutions and building and resourcing community safety strategies is and continues to be the goal, because we know that is what's needed for all people to survive and thrive.

"We will continue to work with communities across the city to dream and build the infrastructure and programs that will make greater safety possible for all Minneapolis residents, and secure the investments to ensure that they become a reality."

Rashad Robinson, a spokesperson for Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization, said it would continue to support community-led efforts to create "a less hostile world for Black people in America."

"Despite the growing momentum and ongoing calls for change we lost at the ballot box, but make no mistake this is only the beginning," Robinson said in a statement to Newsweek.

"The murder of George Floyd last year sparked a national outcry for police accountability, racial justice, and reform. This movement demonstrated the need for cities across the country to change their emergency response practices. Even though ballot question #2 wasn't approved this year, we will continue to fight to expand what safety looks like for Black and brown communities."

Opponents of the ballot proposal welcomed the win, but they too stressed the need to transform policing in Minneapolis.

"Tonight Minneapolis voters have made clear that we want a planful approach to transforming policing and public safety in our city that needs to include meaningful consultation with the communities that are most impacted by both violent crime and by over-policing," Leili Fatehi, manager of the All of Mpls campaign that supporting retaining the police department, told The Associated Press.

Abolish the police banner in Minneapolis
Traffic passes by Moon Palace bookstore adorned with a large banner reading "Abolish The Police" on Election Day on November 2, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images