Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) sharply criticized the disparity between the seemingly endless amounts of money that government officials are willing to spend on the police while essential social programs go begging, at a press conference at the site of Daunte Wright’s murder in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, on Tuesday.
Calling for “policies that move us forward,” Omar said, “the current policing system that we have is not doing anything to protect and serve. What will it take for us to have a system [that] we are all protected by?”
“I am constantly appalled by the fact that it is easy — it is easy for municipalities, for the states, for the federal government to readily come up with resources to police and brutalize people,” she continued.
“But when it comes to coming up with resources to provide health care, to provide mental health services, to provide housing, to provide the things that we need for our well-being as a community so that we can thrive, they are put [on] the back burner,” Omar said. “And people oftentimes will say, this is not the time, we don’t have the resources, we’re not sure how we’re going to pay for it, we can’t get people from the other side of the aisle to agree.”
ILHAN OMAR SPEAKS AT DAUNTE WRIGHT RALLY: Rep. @IlhanMNis speaking at a news conference and rally hosted by residents of Brooklyn Center at the site where Daunte Wright was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police. https://t.co/WnMueC1sKt
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 20, 2021
At the press conference, Omar also expressed frustration over the political stalemates that are plaguing Congress and blocking progress. She is tired of the filibuster, she said, and she’s tired of talking about the filibuster.
“I am tired [of] people talking about the filibuster. I am tired [of] people talking about the narrow margins we have in the Senate,” Omar said. “It is time for people to go beyond the press releases, to go beyond the press conferences and actually do the right thing in moving our country towards progress.”
Omar, alongside many other progressive members of Congress, have expressed frustration with the constant cycle of police brutality and immunity as Black communities have risen up against police-perpetrated violence over the past year and calls to defund rather than reform the police have spread.
Police reform, a concept preferred by centrist Democrats, often gives more power, resources and money to police, which ends up perpetuating the cycle. And the cycle is seemingly endless, advocates say, as Minneapolis citizens rise up for the second time in less than a year to protest the police-perpetrated killing of another Black man in their community.
“Our communities are tired and exhausted, really, at this repeated offense and assault that continues to happen, where we continue to find ourselves in a state of mourning, in a state of exhaustion, in a state of trauma,” said Omar, who represents Brooklyn Center, where Wright was killed. “This violence isn’t taking place in some remote space. It’s taking place in the midst of communit[ies] where people are bearing witness every single time this violence is perpetrated.” Omar then went on to demand “transformational change” in response to the violence.
As the Black Lives Matter movement has called for justice, progressive lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have rallied behind the movement. As Ocasio-Cortez explained last year, the change that Omar is calling for isn’t as far from reality as centrists and Republicans might claim.
“Affluent white communities already live in a world where [they] choose to fund youth, health, housing, etc more than they fund police,” she wrote. “When a teenager or preteen does something harmful in a suburb…. White communities bend over backwards to find alternatives to incarceration for their loved ones to ‘protect their future,’ like community service or rehab or restorative measures.”
Lawmakers have recently cast doubt on police narratives about Wright’s death. Wright was killed last week by officer Kim Potter when she claims she mistook her firearm for her taser, but many experts and advocates have questioned her story.
“Daunte Wright’s killing was not a random, disconnected ‘accident,’” wrote Ocasio-Cortez last week. “It was the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants impunity for state violence, rewards it with endlessly growing budgets at the cost of community investment, and targets those who question that order.”
Other progressives have also cast doubt on the police narrative. “Impossible that a veteran cop couldn’t tell [the] difference between taser and gun,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We need real consequences for these killings.”