The Squad's Next Member Compares 'Defund the Police' Activists to MLK

Texas Dem Greg Casar calls anti-police movement 'the biggest … probably in American history'

April 14, 2022

Texas Democrat and soon-to-be "Squad" member Greg Casar compared "defund the police" activists to Martin Luther King Jr.

During a Tuesday morning sitdown with the Texas Tribune, Casar discussed his efforts to cut police funding as a member of the Austin City Council. The Democrat dismissed criticism and blasted Democrats for "trying to blame activist movements for our challenges as Democratic politicians." Casar went on to compare the defund the police movement to King's civil rights movement, arguing both were unpopular at the onset.

"MLK was not popular when he did his activist work. And his goal was not to get more Democrats elected. His goal was to transform American society, both short term and long term," Casar said. "Same thing—really important for the biggest protest movement, probably in American history, or at least the biggest one in my lifetime since the civil rights movement, to stand up and say, 'We need change to have a more just society,' especially for black folks and folks of color. It's not their job in the streets to come up with exactly the right slogans to help us get elected."

Casar's comments received little attention—the Democrat's Tribune interview has only been viewed 153 times on YouTube as of this writing, and national media outlets did not cover the conversation. But that will likely change in a matter of months. In March, Casar rode support from "Squad" members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), and Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) to handily win the Democratic primary for Texas's 35th Congressional District. Come November, he is widely expected to win the deep-blue district, and his defund the police rhetoric could quickly cause headaches for Democrats who insist their party does not support the movement.

Casar, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, rose to prominence as an Austin City Council member in the wake of George Floyd's death. Casar quickly authored legislation to remove $150 million from the city's police department budget, which passed in August 2020. 

Roughly one year later, Casar launched his congressional campaign through an announcement video that promised to pass single-payer health care. Casar's campaign site, meanwhile, touts a Squad-backed bill that would end federal funding for police, disband the DEA and ICE, and "develop a time-bound plan to close all federal prisons."

Casar is running to replace longtime Democratic incumbent Lloyd Doggett, who opted to move to Texas's newly drawn 37th Congressional District. Casar will face either Dan McQueen or Michael Rodriguez in November. The two Republicans are embroiled in a primary runoff battle, which will take place in late May.