People lined up outside the Providence City Hall on Monday to testify before the Providence City Council Finance Committee meeting on the budget for the Providence Police Department. The hearing was a redo of a hearing held on Zoom weeks ago that was overrun by racist trolls seeking to undermine the hearing.
About 200 people testified at the new hearing, and the message they brought to the was clear: Defund the Police.
The first 47 people testified were in person. The City Council did their best to use social distancing in allowing people to enter the hearing room one at a time, with some cleaning between speakers. The next 153 people to testified did so by audio and/or video via Zoom.
This outpouring of public testimony, nearly nine hours worth, has persuaded some elected officials that the City’s budget priorities need to be examined, but what a public safety budget looks like to these officials is unclear:
“After 9 consecutive hours of public testimony last night, one thing is abundantly clear: the community is not content with what the Administration has submitted for the Police Department’s budget,” said Providence City Council President Sabina Matos. “The Council will now engage in the task of examining the Police Department budget to evaluate where amendments could be made that are reflective of the community’s priorities.”
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“The activism we have witnessed over the past month has been incredibly powerful and a tremendous example of democracy in action,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “My office has recently received over 3,000 emails and calls about how we, as city leaders, can rethink the way policing exists in our city. The call for change has been resoundingly clear and it is inspiring to see how it has developed from the grassroots.”