While Democratic leaders assiduously avoided growing calls from the party’s left flank to defund the police, activists embraced it. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) backed the push to defund the police department in Minneapolis, where violent crime has since soared, while fellow congressional “democratic socialists” Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), Cori Bush (D., Mo.), and Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) endorsed the idea on social media.
“We’re going to defund the police and refund our social services,” Bush, then a candidate for Congress, wrote. “Don’t like this idea? Well, we don’t like dead Black & Brown bodies & broken families at the hands of those sworn to protect us. The police have failed at fixing themselves—so we’re going to do it.”
It’s from sentiments like these that an alternative to the mainstream Democratic and Republican proposals for police reform emerged: the BREATHE Act, a set of policies endorsed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Pressley. Though not yet formally drafted, the proposed effects of the bill would include abolishing ICE and the DEA, decriminalizing border crossings, ending mandatory minimum and life sentences, and pressuring states to repeal statutes implementing juvenile crimes.