LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Black Lives Matter movement held protests all over the country this past summer, many with the message of defunding the police. But a bill introduced in the Arkansas legislature last week aims to prevent that from happening.
Introduced on Jan. 21, the "Back the Blue Act", if passed, would not allow any municipality in Arkansas to cut more than 25% of the funding of their police department. “We in Arkansas value our police officers," said Sen. Bart Hester, a co-sponsor of the bill. "We value all law enforcement, and if we have any rogue city councils or something that decided to defund them, then we’re not going to allow that.”
However, this doesn’t rest well with the Black Lives Matter movement in central Arkansas. One activist and organizer, who goes by the alias WHO, thinks this legislation is a direct attack on what they’re trying to accomplish.
“Defunding the police doesn’t mean just taking away the police, completely abolishing the police," he said. "It means taking those funds and putting it toward something toward the community.” The bill states that if there is a cut of more than 25%, it needs to go to a public safety or law enforcement program, or the city risks state funding.
“It’s going to make people upset, and it’s also going to take more of our tax dollars into killing unarmed people or people who have mental problems and need help. So, it’s kind of just a disappointment," said WHO.
Hester thinks this bill is not about a group or political affiliation, rather a bipartisan effort. “Regardless of what you believe, you need the police support," Hester said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re a black lives matter activist, you want to be able to go protest and do what you want with the protection of the police to do that under the first amendment."
He says this is the first of many police-related bills that will get introduced this session and, is confident he’ll get the supermajority vote of support for his "Back the Blue Act".