An online petition calling for the City of Edmonton to defund the police service is garnering thousands of signatures.
The petition follows widespread protests against police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minn.
“We are just getting started,” Edmonton’s anti-racism rally organizer Olga Loggale said.
“The protest was really just the beginning for what we hope will be the end of the hardships we’ve faced for so long.”
The city budget calls for the Edmonton police service to receive a $75-million increase over four years.
The Black Lives Matter petition circulating online supports cutting that and diverting it to community-led organizations. Supporters would also like to see the size of the police service reduced.
“(The petition) speaks to the police brutality that’s going on and the fact that they are so heavily funded and heavily backed, Loggale said.
“Defunding the police has to be our move. We have to show people how serious we are about this, we have to show people that we need to hold these police accountable.”
The proposal was brought before Mayor Don Iveson on Thursday.
“I think our city council actually has a really strong track record of weighing the challenges imposed by resource scarcity between police funding and other priorities,” Iveson explained.
Iveson says the city has heavily invested in community outreach programs.
“On several occasions in budgets over previous years, we have chosen to fund those community safety partnerships over increasing the policing budget because we believe there is a strong return to working with community that way,” Iveson said.
“I know the stress is high but I think at this moment to defund (the police) would be detrimental not only to policing in general but to continue with our relationship with the community,” said Sgt. Michael Elliot, president of the Edmonton Police Association.
The petition has already received thousands of signatures, with more by the minute.
“We need people in office, we need people elected who are not only ready and willing to listen to the minority groups but ready to take what they hear from minority groups and actually put it into action, we need someone who is on our side,” Loggale said.