Last night, Metro Council passed a budget that failed to answer the call of thousands upon thousands of Nashvillians who want to defund police and incarceration in order to defend Black lives. We are thankful that MNPS will receive more funding through Council Member Mendes’ budget. But we are disgusted and enraged that, by refusing to pass amendments to defund police and incarceration, so many council members showed they are unwilling to defend Black lives.
And yet, despite the anti-Black results of last night’s Council vote, we are still winning. While only a few courageous council members voted for amendments that reflected the overwhelming will of the people of Nashville to divest from policing and cages and invest in what actually makes us safe, we are still winning, and we will win. Our commitment and determination remain steadfast.
Let’s be clear about what happened last night.
A handful of council members showed deep courage by responding to the will of the people and pushing toward the Nashville we deserve: one in which we defund police and cages and invest in our people. Meanwhile, a majority of council members showed us they are still too afraid to listen to the people, to build a city where we fully fund education, affordable housing, social services, and all the other resources that actually keep us safe. Many council members showed us last night that they are committed to institutions that harm our communities, and to corporations that exploit us. Their actions last night made it clear to us that they are unwilling to defend Black lives, support black lives, or honor the voices of black people.
And yet, we are still winning. Here’s why.
The Nashville People’s Budget Coalition went public as an organization three short weeks ago when we released a report detailing Mayor Cooper’s proposal to spend more of our tax money on the criminal justice system than almost all public goods combined. Our report called for a “people’s budget” that defends Black lives by divesting from policing and cages and investing in our communities. Since we released our report and began organizing our people three weeks ago, the following things have happened in Nashville:
- Hundreds of residents showed up to participate in the democratic process by speaking at Metro Council’s public hearing on the Mayor’s proposed budget that lasted until the morning. The message was overwhelmingly clear: “Defund the police!”
- A few days later, CM Mendes announced that his alternate budget would reverse the $2.6 increase that Mayor Cooper’s budget proposed to give to the Metro Nashville Police Department, keeping their funding flat from Fiscal Year 2020.
- Tens of thousands of Nashvillians rose up in the streets in opposition to racist policing in Nashville and across the country.
- Over the course of four days, more than 5,000 people responded to a survey telling us how much money they want the city to divest from cops and cages and how much it should invest in our communities.
- A few days later, four council members proposed amendments that would divest from policing and incarceration and invest in the resources that actually make our communities safe, including Council Member Ginny Welsch’s amendment that honored the call of 5,000+ Nashvillians by calling for major divestment from the Metro Nashville Police Department and major re-investment in our communities.
Despite Council’s refusal to defend Black lives by defunding police and cages, multiple council members spoke forcefully last night about their hope in the possibility of a Nashville that reimagines public safety by investing in the resources that actually keep our communities safe. That only happened because we showed up. Nashville is listening because the PEOPLE showed up.
People power moved the needle. Anti-black, anti-working class votes cannot stop our power. A new Nashville is coming. It may not seem like it to most Council Members, but we’re here on the ground, and we feel it shifting. This is just the beginning, we know that another world is possible. And we are committed to creating and passing a budget that gets us there.
We ready. We comin’.
Today, we catch our breath. Tomorrow, we keep on building people power that cannot be stopped and gets us the Nashville we deserve.
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