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Defund the Police has been a widespread saying around police reform since the murder of George Floyd. Photo: John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Biden’s defund the police comments face major backlash after State of the Union address

The president tried to walk a line in his speech on March 2, but reactions seem like he leaned too far one way.

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During his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 2, President Joe Biden spoke about a recent visit to the New York Police Department, days after the funerals of two Dominican-American police officers. 

Officer Wilbert Mora and his partner Officer Jason Rivera, both in their 20s, were responding to a 9-1-1 call when a man shot and killed them with a stolen gun. Mora and Rivera patrolled the neighborhoods in which they grew up. 

“I spoke with their families and told them that we are forever in debt for their sacrifice, and we will carry on their mission to restore the trust and safety every community deserves,” Biden said. 

Biden said that he has worked on these issues for a long time, and that he knows that investing in crime prevention and community police officers that know the neighborhood will restore trust and safety. 

He then made a statement that is simultaneously his most celebrated and most criticized of the night, as he called for more police funding. 

“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities,” Biden said. 

Many Republicans gave Biden a standing ovation for this statement, but the harsh critiques from activists and politicians continue to roll in. 

In the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in the Summer of 2020, advocates across the nation began calling for police departments to be defunded, and to have that money redistributed to community services. 

“With all due respect, Mr. President. You didn’t mention saving Black lives once in this speech. All our country has done is given more funding to police. The result? 2021 set a record for fatal police shootings. Defund the police. Invest in our communities,” tweeted Rep. Cori Bush following Biden’s address. 

The Washington Post recorded 1,055 fatal police shootings nationwide last year, the most the outlet has documented in a year since it began compiling data on police killings in 2015.

Activist and author DeRay McKesson, said on Twitter that the police should not receive funding because of their lack of accountability and protection for the community. 

“They are already well funded & not accountable to anyone,” McKesson wrote. 

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization didn’t release a statement after Biden’s speech, but tweeted a photo of Rep. Maxine Waters’ disappointed reaction. 

BLM did tag the president in a separate post, writing “no, we don’t all agree. We still say #DefundThePolice and hold killer cops accountable, in a post promoting a racial justice rally on Thursday, March 4. 

Bree Newsome, the activist that became known for taking down a Confederate flag in South Carolina, explained in a thread on Twitter that the “defund the police” slogan has gained major traction in public discourse, and that the “ruling elite” are overwhelmed by it. 

“Reallocating $ from police to services that would prevent most issues police respond to —homelessness for ex.—is a very practical approach to anyone actually concerned w/ public health & safety. But the establishment is doing the exact opposite, cutting services to increase policing,” Newsome wrote. 

While public opinion has changed on the subject, the conversation about reimagining community policing and safety is still growing. 

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