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Rep. Ilhan Omar Backs Ballot Initiative to Abolish Minneapolis Police & Create New Public Safety Department

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Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whose district includes Minneapolis, says she supports a ballot initiative to abolish the city’s police department and replace it with a new “Department of Public Safety.” Local activists have already gathered tens of thousands of signatures for the move. “We’ve had a very incompetent and brutal police department for a really long time,” says Omar, who adds that while much of the world associates the city’s cops with the murder of George Floyd, local residents have witnessed the department’s violence for much longer.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Omar, speaking of the horror of losing lives unnecessarily, I wanted to pivot to your home state and to your city, Minneapolis, where police killed George Floyd, murdered him, prompting mass protests. Now local activists have gathered more than 22,000 signatures to place a measure on the ballot this November to vote on whether to abolish the city’s police department and replace it with a new Department of Public Safety. But the city attached an explanatory note to the ballot initiative that organizers say is a misleading, partial description. They filed a lawsuit to stop the note from being placed on the ballot initiative, saying the city is trying to influence voters with subjective, selective language. You are one of the leaders of this community that has experienced so much trauma. Can you talk about your views on this and what you think would lead to a more just solution, not only in Minneapolis, but it is certainly a model for the whole country?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. Well, first of all, in regards to the ballot measure and to the tactics of those that want to keep the status quo in place, I say to them, you know, we’ve dealt with that before in Minnesota in regards to ballot measures, and I believe that this one will also be met with the same fate as the other ones, so I’m confident that we will prevail.

We’ve had a very incompetent and brutal police department for a really long time. And, you know, to the rest of the country and the world, they saw what happened with George Floyd and might have thought this is a one-off situation. I remember witnessing my first police shooting as a teenager, where they put nearly 38 bullets into the body of a mentally ill man who was just released from an institution, who didn’t speak a word of English, who couldn’t respond to their commands, who was not of any imminent threat to have had his life taken in such a brutal and a shameful way. And so many of us have experienced those kind of killings in front of civilians far too often than we would like to have seen.

So, the fact that the Minneapolis Police Department can no longer exist the way it is is one that is understood by the majority of us. And I believe in the fight that people have engaged in, in regards to trying to have a more just system for us, and we’ll continue to support their effort.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Congressmember Ilhan Omar, Minnesota congressmember representing the 5th Congressional District, from Mogadishu to Minneapolis. The paperback edition of her memoir has just been released. It’s titled This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman. Thanks so much, Congressmember Omar.

Well, up next, we go to Lebanon, where security forces fired water cannons and tear gas at protesters marking one year since the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut, killing hundreds, injuring thousands. Stay with us.

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