Georgia Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both insist they oppose defunding the police, a message that might be more convincing if they didn’t have the staunch support of the Black Lives Matter PAC.
The two-month-old political-action committee, which champions the “defund the police” slogan, has embraced the Democratic hopefuls, holding voter-turnout events and releasing a campaign ad Dec. 22 that includes a mural of NFL free agent and staunch law enforcement detractor Colin Kaepernick.
“This election matters because we need representation: of race, background, & generation,” tweeted the BLM PAC on Monday. “Let’s get @ReverendWarnock & @ossoff in.”
Launched Oct. 7, the BLM PAC’s co-founders include Black Lives Matter Global Network executive director Patrisse Cullors, a self-described “trained Marxist” whose Twitter account is titled, “fund the us postal service – defund the police.”
In addition, the BLM PAC is sponsoring virtual phone banks on behalf of the Georgia Democrats with the Working Families Party, whose “people’s charter” includes, “Shifting resources away from policing, jails, and detention centers.”
The charter has some juice behind it. Signers include Democratic progressive heroes such as Rep. Ro Khanna of California and all four members of the “Squad”: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
In the 30-second BLM PAC ad, a jogger runs past farms, houses and a mural of Mr. Kaepernick, who took the Black Lives Matter “defund the police” rallying cry a step further in October by calling for the abolition of police and prisons. He famously wore socks depicting officers as pigs at training camp in 2016.
GA, you made history this November.
— Black Lives Matter PAC (@blmpac) December 22, 2020
The Ossoff and Warnock campaigns both confirmed in emails Monday that the candidates do not support defunding the police, but the discrepancy between that message and their BLM support has not been lost on Republicans.
“BLM PAC supports a number of radical policy positions, including defunding the police, emptying prisons, and abolishing ICE, along with a litany of other proposals that would weaken public safety,” said Georgia Republican Party spokesperson Abigail Sigler in a statement. “They are backing Jon Ossoff and Radical Raphael Warnock because they know they will fight for their extreme socialist agenda.”
The debate comes with homicides surging in Atlanta. Police logged 155 homicides in 2020, the most in 22 years, after three people were killed over the Christmas holiday weekend, including a 16-year-old girl shot at a hotel and a seven-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Democrats blame slogan for election losses
Republicans are far from the only critics of the “defund the police” slogan. Top Democrats, including President-elect Joseph R. Biden, have blamed the message for Democratic losses in November.
Mr. Biden said in a Dec. 8 audio recording leaked to the Intercept that the slogan allowed Republicans to “beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not.”
He warned against using the message in the Georgia runoff. “I just raise it with you to think about how much do we push between now and Jan. 5 — we need those two seats — about police reform,” he told civil-rights leaders on the call. “But I guarantee you, there will be a full-blown commission.”
Mr. Obama said in a Dec. 2 interview that “snappy” slogans such as “defund the police” risk alienating voters, saying, “You lost a big audience the minute you say it.”
Even so, the BLM PAC is not backing down. “If you are worried about whether defund the police is the right slogan, you are part of the problem,” said the group on the website snappyslogan.com.
On Dec. 10, the BLM PAC tweeted: “When BLM PAC calls for #DefundThePolice, we call for investment. This is not just a hashtag or snappy slogan for us. It is a movement and vision for a world where Black Lives Matter.”
The BLM PAC reportedly plans to spend $500,000 to elect the Democrats, a goal backed up by its fundraising. As of Nov. 23, the PAC had already raised $476,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“Jon Ossoff may be heeding Joe Biden’s advice to conceal his support for defunding the police until after the election, but that hasn’t stopped radical, far-left organizations from spending heavily to get him elected,” said Perdue campaign spokesman John Burke. “He can try to hide it all he wants, but Georgians already know Ossoff would vote against their safety and security and defund the police if he ever got to Washington.”
In June, Mr. Ossoff told radio host Rashad Richey that “you’ve got to be able to hold individual officers and entire departments accountable, and there also has to be funding for those departments on the line,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Then again, Mr. Ossoff told CBS in June: “No, I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to the police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Warnock, the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, referred in a 2015 sermon to, “in Ferguson, police power showing up in a kind of gangster and thug mentality. You can wear all kinds of colors and be a thug, you can sometimes wear the colors of the state and behave like a thug.”
His campaign has said that Mr. Warnock was referring to “a specific incident in Ferguson, Missouri,” in which 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was Black, was shot and killed in 2014 by a White officer. The Obama administration Justice Department declined to prosecute the officer after an investigation.
Mr. Warnock has also insisted he does not want to defund law enforcement.
“Let me be clear, I oppose defunding the police. But we have to respect law enforcement enough to hold them accountable,” he tweeted on Oct. 19.
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