On Tuesday night, Metro Council celebrated loads of cash for cops and a few crumbs for our communities with a standing ovation.
Yes, the substitute budget that council passed makes important investments in education, including teacher and support staff pay, and minuscule investments in affordable housing, transit, and violence interruption. These items were only included in the budget at all because we have joined impacted community members in amplifying the desperate need for increased funding for these resources for years.
But nearly 3,000 Nashville residents living in all council districts and zip codes have already told us that this is not even close to enough! The budget we deserve and demand is a budget that meets our communities’ needs by fully funding the public goods that enable us all to thrive.
Instead, we have a budget that maintains the violent status quo by devoting millions more to cops and cages while our communities suffer from crises of poverty, displacement, and violence that cops and cages by definition cannot fix, and often make worse.
It does not have to be this way.
And that is why we stood in solidarity with illegally evicted renters and brought Tuesday’s council meeting to a grinding halt. Fed up with council’s swift rejection of the only amendment that would have divested from police and invested in our young people, its disregard of the voices of thousands of constituents calling for serious change, and its self-congratulation for maintaining the violent status quo, we were left with no choice but to disrupt business as usual.
While some are painting our disruption as disrespect, we know it was actually the closest thing to democracy that happened Tuesday night. When the budget process does not include historically excluded residents in any meaningful way, we have no choice but to involve ourselves, whether the process allows it or not. As a result, renters and members of our coalition have the attention of the city, and we will continue to force the life or death issues our people are facing until change comes.
City leaders may be relieved that they pushed through millions more for cops and cages and a few crumbs to satiate us. But it will not be possible to ignore the growing chorus of thousands of Nashvillians for much longer. Years of organizing to disrupt the violent status quo in Nashville has shown us that history is on the side of people fighting tooth and nail to survive systems that do not serve and protect us, and to build new systems in their place.
The fight continues. And we will win.
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