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'Defund the Police' Protest in Phoenix Brings Attention to Police Review Board

Protesters of police brutality rallied this afternoon in conjunction with a city council meeting about funding a police use-of-force civilian review program.
Protesters of police brutality rallied this afternoon in conjunction with a city council meeting about funding a police use-of-force civilian review program.
Brendon Kleen

The peaceful protest outside Phoenix City Hall on Wednesday afternoon had a simple scope and a massive crowd.

The June 3 protest, organized by Poder in Action and Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro, took place in conjunction with a meeting of the Phoenix City Council over funding for a civilian-led oversight and transparency board in the city. A post on Poder in Action’s Twitter account this morning listed the specific demand to defund the Phoenix Police Department by 25 percent by June 17 and put that money into “programs that create safe and healthy communities.”

The plan also calls for an end to the collaboration between Phoenix police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as a plan for how to raise $3 million toward a relief fund for undocumented immigrants in the community.

Hundreds of diverse, mostly young protesters stood outside City Hall starting just after noon. Around 3 p.m., the crowd marched around the building, chanting “No justice, no peace, defund the police,” as well as “Black lives matter.”

Under a canopy tent shielding them from the sun in 110-degree weather, organizers brought to the microphone families of those who’ve been killed by law enforcement officials in Arizona.

Ana Hernandez, whose brother, Alejandro, was fatally shot in 2019 because, police claimed, he repeatedly pointed a fake gun at officers, said, “Cops don’t educate people. Cops don’t keep us healthy, that’s what our people need.”

Another woman, Lorenza Valdez, whose son, Francisco was shot by officers in 2017 after she called them to help her calm him down, reminded the crowd that the community’s pain is real.

"They took my son and that forever has changed us and destroyed our family,” Valdez said. “Nothing will ever be the same.”

Some protesters wanted to bring focus to the death of Dion Johnson, a Valley resident who was a shot by a state trooper on May 25. The state Department of Public Safety announced last week there was no body cam or dash cam footage of the incident to give to investigators.

Snacks and refreshments were provided by fellow protesters, who could be seen rolling coolers and baskets around the public area. After one young woman keeled over, pale-faced, a group of protesters carried her over to a nearby bench in the shade, pressed ice to her face, and offered her Pedialyte to recover. She soon regained consciousness.

Inside the council chamber, elected officials debated over funding for the Office of Accountability and Transparency, which was established in February by a 5-4 vote. The office will feature a Community Review Board populated by civilians who will be liaisons to the public and recommend changes to law enforcement officials in the city.

Several protesters planned to continue the protest outside city hall until the state’s 8 p.m. curfew.

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