A leader of President Joe Biden’s anti-gun violence initiative is a former left-wing activist who decried larger police budgets in the wake of the George Floyd crime wave.
Biden launched the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Sept. 22, as part of his administration's effort to "combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart." Officially helmed by Vice President Kamala Harris, the initiative will be led in part by Greg Jackson, the former executive director of the left-wing Community Justice Action Fund.
The president lauded Jackson and Rob Wilcox, whom Biden also tapped for the office, for "being advocates for change." But the change Jackson advocates for puts him at odds with a major White House stance.
Jackson has attacked police departments and their budgets throughout his career, including in a January 2021 University of Maryland policing seminar when he lamented that he is "struggling to survive while … police budgets thrive." That same year, Jackson participated in an Obama Foundation webinar entitled "Re Imagining Policing," during which he touted "community-led violence intervention and prevention strategies" in place of traditional law enforcement. The goal, Jackson said, is to "ultimately reduce the need for policing."
Biden has sought to distance himself from anti-police rhetoric throughout his term, a stance that has put him at loggerheads with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. During his 2022 State of the Union address, Biden said, "the answer is not to defund the police, but to fund the police." The White House webpage announcing the Office of Gun Violence Prevention notes that "President Biden continues to call" for legislation that "would put more police officers on our streets."
Neither the White House nor Jackson responded to requests for comment.
The Community Justice Action Fund scrubbed Jackson’s bio and other information from its website prior to Biden’s announcement. But a review of the Internet Archive reveals that the organization routinely railed against increased funding for law enforcement.
A project of the George Soros-backed Tides Foundation, the Community Justice Action Fund penned an open letter in 2020 outlining principles that included demands that governments "divest from aggressive policing," as well as "acknowledge that Black Lives Matter." Other left-wing groups, including the National Black Justice Coalition and the American Federation of Teachers were among the signatories. That letter has since been deleted from the organization’s website.
The Community Justice Action Fund has waded into other issues as well, including immigration. A founding member of the organization called on the Senate to block provisions in a background check bill that would report illegal immigrants who attempt to purchase a firearm to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although purchasing, or attempting to purchase, a firearm as an illegal immigration is a crime, the organization said Immigration and Customs Enforcement "has no place in making communities safer."
Violent crime has continued to plague the nation’s cities since 2020, with many alleging that alternatives to policing policies are in large part to blame. Although the homicide rate has receded, it is still roughly 25 percent higher than in the first half of 2019, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.
Jackson does not see increased police presence as a solution to rising crime. Speaking at the University of Maryland policing seminar in 2021, he lamented that "there’s still a lot of cities, unfortunately, across the country that only see policing as their strategy to address violence."