ADVERTISEMENT

Prison Abolitionists Work to ‘Secure the Senate’ in Georgia

'We need to radically reimagine our concept of justice and safety'

Defund the police
Getty Images
• November 24, 2020 4:05 pm

A group of far-left activists working to end federal funding for police and "close all federal prisons" is pledging to spend big in Georgia in an effort to "secure the Senate."

Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors launched BLM PAC in October in order to "ensure there are candidates in office that manifest the demands from the streets for the liberation of Black and brown communities." Cullors requested financial support for the super PAC in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, promising to invest in a "strong digital and grassroots strategy in the Georgia runoff election" as part of the group's bid to "secure the Senate."

In the same interview, Cullors touted her pressure campaign on the incoming Biden administration to pass the BREATHE Act in its first 100 days in office. The legislation, which is backed by ultra-progressive "Squad" members Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), aims to close all federal prisons, end federal funding for police hiring, abolish ICE and the DEA, and end life sentences and mandatory minimums.

"We need to radically reimagine our concept of justice and safety," Cullors wrote in a recent op-ed.

The PAC's involvement in the runoff elections could undermine recent attempts by Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to distance themselves from the "defund the police" movement. While Ossoff in June said funding for police departments has to be "on the line," he has since stated that he does not support defunding police. Warnock, meanwhile, said during a series of 2015 sermons that many police officers behave like thugs and bullies, and a senior adviser to the Democrat claimed that defunding police "isn't as radical as some may think" in a June tweet. Warnock has since released an ad saying that he "does not support defunding the police."

Neither Ossoff nor Warnock returned requests for comment on whether they would support the BREATHE Act should they be elected to the Senate. Tlaib voiced her support for the bill during a July unveiling, with the Michigan Democrat committing to "fully engaging with this legislation seriously and with a sense of urgency."

Black Lives Matter leadership registered BLM PAC with the Federal Election Commission in early October. According to Cullors, the PAC—in coordination with the Working Families Party—made hundreds of thousands of phone calls to prospective voters in Georgia and South Carolina ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The Working Families Party has organized its own out-of-state phone banks for Ossoff and Warnock and is a leading voice in the movement to defund police. The party's electoral arm, WFP Justice Fund, works to "elect the next generation of leaders who pledge to defund police" and has spent more than $900,000 supporting Warnock, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. BLM PAC has yet to reveal its electoral expenditures.

Ossoff and Warnock are running to unseat Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Georgia's Jan. 5 runoff elections, which will determine control of the Senate. The Republicans have criticized Ossoff and Warnock's "anti-police" rhetoric, with Perdue calling to "defend our police, not defund them."