By Gregory Krieg, Omar Jimenez and Peter Nickeas, CNN
Voters in the city rejected a ballot measure to overhaul policing drafted amid the national fury over George Floyd’s murder by a police officer but that went to voters as rising concerns about gun violence drained energy from the protest movement that had launched it.
CNN on Tuesday projected that Minneapolis Question 2 had failed, effectively ending a push to give the city council oversight of a new Department of Public Safety and done away with a requirement to employ a minimum number of police officers tied to the city’s population.
The status quo-affirming result is a setback to both citywide and national efforts to fundamentally reduce or eliminate the role of police in America. Opponents of calls to “defund the police” will point to the vote as fresh evidence that the backlash to police abuse that fueled last year’s protests, which followed the killing of Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Talk of curbing police departments by cutting or limiting their resources has run into a countervailing wall of concern over public safety and waning support from early allies — including leading Democrats who largely view it as political poison.
Minneapolis City Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham, who spearheaded a similar ballot initiative, called the results “really unfortunate.”
“We have just seen a clear backlash to progress in our city,” Cunningham said.
The vote marked a reversal of fortunes for activists dedicated to breaking the grip of a police department that had for years been confronted with accusations of racism and the use of excessive force.
But it was Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day in 2020, captured on video by a bystander and the video went viral on social media, that set off a tinderbox. In response to protests that drew national attention, Minneapolis city councilors gathered in a city park and pledged to dismantle the police department.
Mayor Jacob Frey was confronted outside his home in June 2020, shortly after Floyd’s murder, and jeered when he refused to commit to abolishing the police department — a much more ambitious step than was proposed in the ballot initiative on Tuesday. A day after Frey’s confrontation with protesters, nine members of the city council announced plans to begin “the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department.”
“We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” Council President Lisa Bender told CNN at the time.
Weeks later, the council voted unanimously to begin a process that would dismantle the police department and replace it with a “department of community safety and violence prevention.”
The move was greeted by activists who, as surges of anger pulsed through cities (and even some suburbs), saw an opportunity to realize reforms that had previously been viewed as impossible.
“While the amendment that passed today wasn’t perfect,” Miski Noor, of the grassroots group Black Visions, said in a statement at the time, “we are closer than any time in history, and anywhere else in the country, to a safe, thriving city without police.”
The question on the ballot Tuesday, of whether to do away with the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety, resulted from a petition drive following Floyd’s murder.
More people cast their ballots early this year than any other Minneapolis election in 45 years. Early voting was up 143% compared to the 2017 municipal election, and up 488% compared to the 2013 municipal election. By about five hours into Election Day, about 30% of registered voters had cast a ballot early, by mail, or in person.
This story has been updated with additional reporting Tuesday.
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