Wisconsin Police Cut The Budget For A Domestic Violence Org After It Showed Support For BLM
The nonprofit isn't the only organization to face consequences for supporting BLM.
October 17, 2020 at 2:18 am
With companies and organizations nationwide reimagining allyship with communities of color due to mass social justice protests, a growing number of police departments are cutting ties with those who align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Wisconsin, domestic violence nonprofit Embrace said police sent emails indicating they were upset by Black Lives Matter signs displayed at each of the organization’s four centers, HuffPost reports.
Despite the organization’s effort to acknowledge the harm systemic racism has caused Black people, Embrace Executive Director Katie Bement said the nonprofit was labeled as an anti-police supporter by law enforcement members in the email.
She said Embrace’s allyship was necessary to ensure that Black people felt as comfortable utilizing its services as the predominantly white counties it serves. Per Embrace’s annual report, nearly 15% of survivors the organization serves are people of color.
“We needed to show that we’re safe for those communities of color,” Bement said.
On Sept. 30, Embrace released a statement on social media to clarify why they were joining in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We share the global grief over the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery as well as the shootings of Jacob Blake, and many other acts of racist violence perpetrated against Black people over the past 400 years in this country,” the statement began.
“As an anti-violence organization, Embrace cannot end one form of violence without addressing the other, and we cannot properly serve all survivors if we do not acknowledge and address the oppression and violence the most marginalized survivors are experiencing,” it continued.
Embrace supports the movement for Black Lives. We will hear their words, lift up their voices, and stand in the…
Posted by Embrace on Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Although Bement said the message’s intention was to explain the organization's activism, blowback from local police and political officials has resulted in a restricted budget and a lack of services for local victims of violence. Embrace has set up a GoFundMe page this week to raise money for its services in the community.
A week after Embrace posted its statement, Barron County officials deliberated to cut $25,000 of the organization’s budget next year, per HuffPost. A prominent member of Embrace’s board, who acts as the county’s head of health and human services, resigned following the release of the statement.
According to HuffPost, most of the 17 local law enforcement agencies that had a prior collaboration with Embrace have expressed they will no longer maintain the partnership, which includes all police departments in Washburn County.
“They asked us to come pick up all of our brochures and referral materials because they don’t need them anymore,” Bement said.
Regardless of people being offended by social justice causes like Black Lives Matter, Bement said the best way to improve society is by prioritizing the most marginalized communities and speaking up on the matter.
“The best practice[d] philosophy in our field is if you put the most marginalized and oppressed person in our community at the center of our work and you work towards their safety and liberation, it’s going to necessitate the safety and liberation of everybody else,” she said. “We felt we couldn’t stay silent and neutral.”
Nationally, the trend of police ending partnerships with community-focused organizations for their social justice alignments has been growing.
In Nebraska, the Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence was contacted by the local Sheriffs’ Association and asked to remove its name from a letter signed by 47 sexual assault awareness organizations condemning institutional racism in the prison system, according to HuffPost.
Lynne Lange, the coalition’s executive director, declined the association’s request and said the coalition’s mission is too important to be intimidated.
“Our organization has chosen to intentionally center our work with an anti-oppression lens, and to raise the voices of women of color,” Lange said. “We will not shy away from that now.”
In Idaho, several law enforcement unions reversed their support of the state’s coalition against sexual and domestic violence because it signed the letter.
“We wonder how these responses will support the healing and safety of people who experience violence,” Kelly Miller, who leads the Idaho coalition, told HuffPost.
As civil unrest continues to grip major cities around the country, the relationship between Black social justice groups and law enforcement agencies has become more contentious. In August, activists were outraged when an email sent by Louisville Metro Police Department Maj. Bridget Hallahan called Black Lives Matter activists "punks" and bandwagon hoppers with few ethics, NBC News reports.
"These ANTIFA and BLM people, especially the ones who just jumped on the bandwagon 'yesterday' because they became 'woke' (insert eye roll here), do not deserve a second glance or thought from us," Hallahan's message read. "Our little pinky toenails have more character, morals, and ethics, than these punks have in their entire body."
LMPD officials have since stripped Hallahan of her commanding duties and she later retired from the department in early October. Before leaving the department, the former police major told NBC that her colleagues in the department were supportive of the email.
As Blavity previously
reported, United Nations leadership warned global governments that domestic abuse and sexual violence against women was a ballooning problem during the coronavirus pandemic.
This spring, a group of senators wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the White House get ahead of the issue and find ways to provide help to victims and their families throughout the pandemic.
"We also ask that the Administration for Children and Families and the Office on Violence Against Women ensure that organizations that help victims and survivors of domestic violence have the flexibility, resources and information needed to continue to provide these critical services during the pandemic," the letter read.
Gricel Santiago-Rivera, interim executive director of Wisconsin’s state coalition against sexual assault, said the effort used to suppress the work and capacity of Embrace, and those like it, is detrimental for victims everywhere.
"To me, it sounded like they were declaring war on Embrace, none of which is good for victims and survivors,” Santiago-Rivera said.
Embrace has three outreach offices, one shelter serving victims from four local counties and a service range nearly as big as the state of Connecticut.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. If you need help, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.