Over 1,000 Philadelphia artists and arts administrators signed a letter sent to Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney on Monday asking to defund the police department and redistribute the money to human services.
“In early May, we objected to your proposed city budget for the fiscal 2021 year, which reserved an irrational, continued investment in the police, under the auspices of ‘safety,’” reads the letter.
It also says that the arts community had asked the mayor to redistribute a portion of the $649 million line item for police to human services that are slated to be cut or eliminated from the city budget.
The artists point out that in their first request they were very polite and that tone was due more to fear than respect.
“The reason we had asked politely for change, and why I suspect the mayor’s office repeatedly declines any motion to disinvest from the police, was not out of respect for police work, but out of fear of the police force,” the letter goes on, “The tide has turned and we are no longer afraid. Arts organizations will not sit passively, or ask politely, seeking scraps from the budget to support our sector.”
The artists also demanded the end of violence against African-American people which is manifested as well in the deprivation of resources.
“We demand the Mayor and City Council acknowledge that the systemic violence against and oppression of African-American people, people of color and poor people of all ethnicities come in many forms, including the intentional deprivation of shared resources.”
The letter was drafted by Anne Ishii, executive director of the Asian Arts Initiative, Maori Holmes, artistic director and CEO of the Blackstar Film Festival, and Danny Orendorff, executive director of the artist collective and gallery Vox Populi. Theirs are the first three signatures.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Tuesday that he would drop his proposal to add $19 million to the police Budget, after a veto-proof majority of City Council said in a letter Monday it could not accept spending more money on police.
Ishii and many of the signatories will be participating in a protest at the step of the Philadelphia Museum of Art next Tuesday, June 16, an event organized by a group called Artist Coalition for a Just Philadelphia.