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Demand in Houston is Clear: Defund the Police

Again today, Houston residents made it clear that they want the Houston Police Department defunded. At today’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee hearing, speaker after speaker, including several members of the Texas Organizing Project, made impassioned pleas for reducing the budget of the police department and redirecting those funds toward community-based programs that address people’s needs for housing, treatment and education. 

“I’ve been on this earth many decades, and I know this to be true: police don’t prevent crime,” said Tanuke Smith, a TOP leader and a grandmother who fears for the safety of her children and grandchildren. “They don’t even respond to crime. In my neighborhood, they harass, they demean. What we are doing is NOT working. It has not made us feel safer and has devastated our communities. Police are supposed to protect and serve. They’re only protecting each other and serving us violence.”

TOP members, like many other speakers, said defunding the police was needed because of the racist history and consistent targeting of Black and Latino people by the police, as most recently seen with the killings of 6 men, five of whom were men of color, and the brutality displayed against people protesting police brutality. 

“The harassment, violence and killing of Black people has existed since the creation of police departments, and it is sad that it continues to this day,” said TOP leader Alexandria Warren. “Police officers target Black people because they know that their uniform protects them from being accountable. We don’t hold officers to a higher standard. The contract we have with them puts them above the law. That is not right.”

TOP is advocating for defunding the police, implementing cite and release, and opening the negotiations with the police union to the public.

“We need to drastically change the way we address public safety,” said Synnachia McQueen, a TOP leader who served 24 years for a crime he did not commit. “We need elected officials who are not afraid to stand up to the powerful police union, who won’t just say what they think we want to hear to appease us, but will actually do the hard work of dismantling a racist system that just costs us money and doesn’t deliver on any of its promises of keeping us safe.”

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

This press release was sent out June 25, 2020.