“We had a sigh of relief in some ways because the violence we have been exposing for years has finally been seen at a national level,” said Viri Hernandez, the executive director of Poder in Action, a nonprofit that works with people who have lost loved ones to police violence.
After the murder of Mr. Floyd while in police custody last year in Minneapolis, activists around the country, including in Phoenix, demanded that police departments be defunded. While the movement has gained traction in some cities, like Minneapolis and Los Angeles, Ms. Hernandez said officials in Phoenix had shown little appetite for cutting the police budget.
“For years we have been saying this, and last year after George Floyd our demands were echoed in the streets,” she said, quickly adding, “Defunding is not happening here even though community members have made that a priority.”
In recent years, both Arizona and Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, have had some of the highest rates of police shootings that resulted in deaths. Analyzing data from 2015 to 2020, one study found that Arizona had the fourth-highest rate of police killings among states, while Maricopa County had the ninth-highest rate among the nation’s 100 most populous counties.
At the same time, homelessness has become a growing concern in Phoenix, along with other cities, especially in the western United States, where more people are living on the streets amid a pandemic and mental health and addiction crises. Alarming activists and those experiencing homelessness has been the police response: a steady flow of early-morning sweeps of homeless encampments, in which officers seize people’s belongings.
“Police are just playing Whac-a-Mole, just pushing them from place to place,” said Elizabeth Venable, the founder of the Fund for Empowerment’s Houseless Leadership Project, which advocates on behalf of the homeless.
Ms. Venable said she was contacted this week by officials at the Justice Department to participate in the investigation, and she said she would organize groups of people to meet with federal investigators to discuss the police response to homelessness.
Source From Nytimes