Natalie Portman once ‘feared’ the Defund The Police movement, but now she’s for it

Natalie Portman arrives on the red carpet of The 92nd Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywo...

For the past week especially, the “defund the police” argument has been moved from a fringe discussion to a mainstream discussion. I’m not saying “fringe” in a negative way, and I know Defund The Police activists have been working on this issue for years if not decades. But it went from a pie-in-the-sky fringe movement to something a lot more mainstream over the past week, as we’ve seen police forces across the country riot, violently assault peaceful protesters and show us all why American policing is 100% broken. There are now significant questions about where to go from here: reform the police and save “the good parts” of current police forces and take a scalpel to the bad parts? Or disband/defund the police, effectively burning down the current police infrastructure, and building something new from the ground up?

These are the questions facing cities, states and the federal government now. What’s remarkable is how quickly, again, this went mainstream. All it took was two weeks of videos of kids being tear-gassed, clergy being shoved by fascists and peaceful protesters being violently assaulted. Now it feels like the whole country is 100% done with this police bulls–t. Now Natalie Portman is putting her two cents in. For what it’s worth, I don’t hate that she’s using social media to work out her feelings on this. It’s a complicated, nuanced conversation and I find her words to be pretty thoughtful:

When I first heard #defundthepolice, I have to admit my first reaction was fear. My whole life, police have made me feel safe. But that’s exactly the center of my white privilege: the police make me as a white woman feel safe, while my black friends, family and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. And for good reason. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. They are patterns and part of the system of over-policing of black Americans.

Reforms have not worked. Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, is one of the most progressive police forces in the country, having undergone extensive anti-bias training.

I am grateful to the leaders in the @mvmnt4blklives who have made us question the status quo. And who have made us imagine, what a world could be like in which we invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment. I’ve gotten to the age in my life, where if my gut feels uncomfortable, I take the situation as wrong. But this concept initially made me uncomfortable because I was wrong. Because the system that makes me feel comfortable is wrong. #defendblacklives #defundthepolice

[From Natalie Portman’s Instagram]

I’ll admit that I, like Natalie, went from thinking “defund the police” was something that could never happen, even if it *should* happen. But as the movement continues… I absolutely think that there are many police forces around this country which should absolutely be defunded and disbanded. I don’t think we could get *all* police forces defunded. But we could try?

Natalie Portman at arrivals for The 92nd...

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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29 Responses to “Natalie Portman once ‘feared’ the Defund The Police movement, but now she’s for it”

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  1. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    The police should be dissuaded from dressing up as modern-day gladiators, having access to far too much heavy weaponry, and calling the public ‘civilians’ as a bare minimum. They’re not a military force. They should NEVER think of themselves as a military force. Defunding this kind of mental aberration is long overdue.

    • Mumbles says:

      It’s a grift, unfortunately. After 9/11, there was a bipartisan drive to supply police forces with high-end weaponry and vehicles, and a lot of it was driven by the maker of said weaponry and vehicles, who would benefit greatly by the steady stream of cash. And to keep it going, those manufacturers are big campaign donors to Congress, who thus continue to fund these programs, etc. This has been going on for almost 20 years, and has thus created police departments where most officers have seen themselves as quasi-military. Add to that that it’s a profession that attracts bullies to begin with (no offense to the police officers who aren’t).

      Only 5 percent of arrests are for violent crime so the armaments are highly unnecessary. Nor should police be tasked to do what a lot of the time they’ve been given to do – social work, dealing with mentally ill people, etc.

      My only fear, and it seems to be coming true, is that the defund the police movement is getting twisted by people in bad faith to mean “abolish the police.” Just like how “black lives matter” – an achingly obvious sentiment – was twisted by racists as exclusionary and responded to with “all lives matter.”

      • Andrew’s Nemesis says:

        Thank you for the explanation, @Mumbles. I have studied the US, historically and am observing it from afar in the present, but some aspects of it seem impenetrable. Appreciate it.

      • Becklu says:

        Actually Mumbles the militarization of the police started after Vietnam, when the government didn’t know what to do with the war equipment and started to send it to police. I was listening to a podcast yesterday about it, very interesting. And we started to do exactly what is suggested with Kennedy and it slowly got rolled back and Reagan basically destroyed the program.

        Also yeah the police don’t need this stuff it’s nuts so step one is to take away all the military equipment.

      • Lucky Charm says:

        Reagan started to so much of what is wrong with our country now! I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but he was a terrible, terrible President who couldn’t care less about the average U.S. citizen.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think a key obstacle is the knee jerk reaction to the slogan, along with “Abolish Police.” Once I explain the meaning and possibilities to people (disbanding and reforming to great success like Camden County, or gradually reallocating funds and resources and reserving a few highly trained officers for actual investigative work into serious crimes or acts of terrorism and hiring social workers, psychologists, and unarmed public servants to deal with traffic stops, domestic disputes, disorderly behavior, etc.), even conservatives I know like these ideas. But the problem with slogans is they only give a partial picture and require further research, which most people don’t want/have time to do.

    • Lightpurple says:

      The slogan is the problem, not the concept.

    • lucy2 says:

      Yes, I see FAR too many people thinking this means get rid of police and public safety all together. The info is out there to learn about what it actually means, I’ve learned a lot just in the past few days, but people don’t want to take the time anymore, they just react to the headline (plus nonsense like FOX News I’m sure isn’t helping).

      • jb says:

        I think it’s rather akin to when Black Lives Matter first formed, and so many white people I know were like “that title is so aggressive!” “that sounds so threatening.” Look where we’ve come! It’s taken a few years but now tons of middle class white people I know get it and feel it. Yes, yes, we all still know a few too many Karens who think “all lives matter,” but forget them for a second (tho how! it’s impossible ;) ) “Defund the Police” certainly sounds jarring for many for exactly what you say, Lucy2. It sounds like a call to eradicate any public safety measures.

        But maybe because I’m a native New Yorker who came of age as Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by police, I’ve never felt safe around cops (even as a white person) nor sympathized with their bloated budgets and unrestricted access to military-grade fire arms. Or maybe I’ve been screaming in the streets so long about corrupt capitalism and our cruel governance that’s turned toward fascism that I’ve seen just how militarized the police have come when protecting “law and order” when people assemble to exercise their 1st amendment rights. Or maybe b/c I’m a sentient being who can see through the headlines that our criminal justice system is just a modernized version of enslaving black bodies into a system of suppression.

        I just really dont understand how anyone can support, defend or empathize with policing policy and the unions that protect the cops in this country. I’m happy to see so many other Americans, particularly white Americans, finally getting it. This the summer of our collective discontent, and let’s make it COUNT.

  3. emmy says:

    Same, tbh. I read it and thought okay now you’re going too far. But I quickly learned the concept behind it and realized that I’ve been voting accordingly for almost 20 years (in Germany) so yeah, I support it. It’s a good thing she’s not pretending to have it all figured out from day 1.

  4. Case says:

    I love what she said, because I’ve gone through similar thoughts in the last week. I didn’t understand how we could defund the police or why it would be beneficial. After educating myself on the issue, I think it makes total sense to devote more funding to other social services that can genuinely help people, rather than just throwing people in prison for issues that can be helped.

    The police, as they exist now, simply do not work. I was never aware of the history of policing and how they started as slave patrols. I think whatever law enforcement we do maintain or create should have a far more advanced education than current police. A degree in criminal justice seems appropriate.

  5. grabbyhands says:

    I think the idea of de-funding the police alarms a lot of people because they don’t understand what it means.

    It doesn’t mean you do away with your police force, it just means cities stop shoveling money their way so they can stockpile military grade weaponry and take courses on killology and instead start directing it towards the types of things that help reduce crime before it starts – mental health counseling. Drug counseling. Programs that give kids something to do after school. Programs that help mitigate homelessness and hunger. But people hear “De-fund” and freak out and that is just the way the current police force like it.

    A whole lot of the public needs to be educated on this topic before they start turning it against us more than they already have.

  6. Kat says:

    For gods sake it’s not helping to say “defund” when you mean “reduce funding”
    I love the idea of taking some of the money and redirecting it to preventive social measures, I hate the idea of not having a police force or not having money for the police force. Reducing prison sentences would probably save more money though. Also don’t body cams cost a lot and don’t we want body cams? I don’t really see the police issue being too much money, it’s too little accountability. There needs to be a more powerful group created to check the police. They need to be well paid to avoid hiring the wrong people or being tempted by bribes
    There’s an AMA on Reddit about this from yesterday. The got a woman from black lives matter and this (defunding) was a big topic in the discussion

    • AMM says:

      It’s definitely both lack of accountability and excess money. A protestor in Miami was on the news yesterday taking with a reporter, and the topic was that Miami’s police budget that year as almost 3000 million, and their anti poverty budget was 1/10th of that. Police in LA have no real overtime cap, with some cops making over 100K annually just in overtime, which means they are overtired and intentionally overworking themselves for cash. The program was meant to help cops and firefighters who are dealing with actual emergencies and to fairly pay them for having to work past shift, but has been abused pretty horribly. The idea is to throw more money at the root of the problems that they do at arresting people.

    • emmy says:

      The money going to policing has to come from somewhere. Unless you want higher taxes, that means it’s taken from education, health care, infrastructure etc. So yeah, it is also a matter of money.

  7. sa says:

    I don’t know if the Minneapolis police can be described “one of the most progressive police forces in the country,” they overwhelmingly elected a violent, racist to be their union president, but other than that, I can’t disagree with anything she said.

    I don’t know how defund the police would work, with all the existing union contracts, but thankfully smarter people than me get to figure that all out.

  8. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I am all for the defund the police movement. I think a LOT of people have a knee jerk reaction to the term “defund” when really all it means is re-allocation of funds. And for those who think reform is better. There’s BEEN reform. Literally EVERY single city has has extensive reformation initiatives. And none of them have worked. I live in Chicago where we have an entire independent board dedicated to reform. And literally nothing has changed. Instead take away the funds that allow the militarization of police forces. Invest those funds into communities, mental health programs and education.

  9. Becklu says:

    I think this is a great point she made. I also think that like others have said the slogan causes a knee jerk reaction but when people break it down and explain it (watch Kamala Harris school Meghan McCain on the view about it) it makes sense and most people agree with the ideas.

    I will say it’s sad we live in a world of sound bites and no nuance because the slogan, which I personally like, will be used to discredit and kill it by scaring people.

  10. Marigold says:

    My kids are for this but I am still confused as to what all it means. I don’t like the name because in my ears it sounds like “abolish the police” which I don’t want. I really don’t want more white men with guns thinking that they need to take the law into their own hands. But yes. SOMETHING needs to be done. And the first thing is to vote out Trump. Defund the police scares white Former Trump voters who are leaning toward Biden. I think anyway. My kids are educating me on a new world!

  11. adastraperaspera says:

    All I am interested in is policy, like Pelosi’s new “Justice in Policing Act.” I am suspicious of snappy slogans that immediately have everyone arguing.

  12. Kelly says:

    I’m a public sector worker in Wisconsin, a state that no longer allows the majority of its public sector workers to unionize, after Scott Walker took office in 2011. However, the public “safety” workers, specifically the police and fire fighters got to keep theirs, because the majority of their membership leans conservative. The liberal leaning unions got decertified and their membership lost the ability to negotiate for annual raises, arbitration, fair treatment by (largely incompetent) management and leadership, etc.

    My view is that the first step to creating more accountability for our nation’s municipal police forces is to decertify their unions. That deprives them of their ability to bargain for wages that start in the mid 5 figures annually and force their city’s insurance policies to pay out settlements to victims of police misconduct. It’s very wrong when white male cops, some with only high school diplomas and who have barely passed 6 months of training making more than teachers and other public sector workers with college degrees. Cut their pay, take away their guns and military surplus equipment, make them take out personal liability insurance out of their own pocket like doctors do to protect themselves from malpractice suits are key steps towards making policing a much less attractive and lucrative profession for white males with minimal education and anger management issues.

    Also, cities need to make it mandatory that all public safety workers have to live in the cities they work in. Yeah, they may have to live in the less desirable areas because their income, but they will be living amongst the people who provide their paychecks. I’ve had relatives who think that small government is the best form government use the line, “but my (very minimal) taxes pay your salary”. It’s something that most public sector workers hear from entitled people frequently. I’m sure most of them wouldn’t throw that line at out of control police officers because police officers are more worthy of respect than people who work in who work in the public sector to serve people.

  13. Faye G says:

    My eyes have been opened these last few weeks as well. Here in Seattle, police have been brutalizing protesters for 10 days while city leaders stood by and did nothing. They beat my cousin, sprayed him with multiple rounds of pepper spray and tear gas, while he had his hands up nonviolently. Yesterday they shot a woman directly in the chest with a smoke bomb, she almost died from cardiac arrest. SPD is just as Racist and corrupt as the worst of the NYPD. I fully support defending the police.

  14. Queen Meghan's Hand says:

    I have to do more reading, but from what I have read from abolitionists, Defund the Police means Defund and Disband the Police. It means replacing the police with trained outreach and social workers to deal with homeless people who live on the street or in public transit. It means hiring and training workers to assist people experiencing intimate partner violence and provide them safe housing. It means replacing police with healthcare workers to deal with troubled students.
    It means an end to carceral (prison) solutions to our problems. Because these carceral solutions were created for explicit purpose of maintaining slave labor and the racial caste system in the US.
    So, no Defund the Police doesn’t mean keep the police. Defund the Police is a means to abolish police.
    I have to do more reading because I am not entirely convinced we *should* get rid of jails and armed policing but we do need to have a discussion on what is a crime, who gets criminalized.
    Also: ugh, I don’t like Natalie Portman.

  15. Truthiness says:

    I am very strongly in favor of defunding the police but I am incredulous at Portman’s fey statement. I have never, ever, ever, felt safe with police around. Not once. I have always viewed police as power hungry, corrupt and lethal and I am not even a POC. I live a commuter train ride away from Chicago and I saw the 68 Chicago riots on TV as a child. We always knew the fix was in and we were never safe for a minute. My privilege police-wise was that I never felt police were itching for a reason to kill me. That is a huge privilege that we ALWAYS knew but it could change in a heartbeat if we rebelled. While I am grateful that defunding the police is FINALLY being discussed, we need action, not just talk. We have known that racist police have been murdering POC for longer than I have been alive, I don’t know what rock Portman is pretending she was under.

  16. Girl with the Soup Tattoo says:

    We need to be talking about the corrupt powers of police unions too…their power is unparalleled. Yes to restructuring police departments COMPLETELY. But please, we need a focus on these unions. No change can happen as long as they stand in the way.

  17. Marigold says:

    I think it would have been far more informative and less divisive to call it demilitarizing the police, but choosing aggressive titles seems to be how people like to get viral traction for a movement.

    Whatever my issue with the naming convention, however, I have been hoping for this and pushing for this idea in my own corner of the world for as long as I can remember. Cops in this country are civilians. They are not military members, and the people they serve are not enemy combatants. Violent crime in the US is actually–mathematically–at an all-time low, and there is no reason whatsoever for the kind of brute military force our civilian police forces have stockpiled and feel obligated to put to use.

    There are systemic problems in our police forces across the country, and those problems are deadly. There are something like 270 million police contacts in the United States annually, and only a VERY small percentage are problematic…but the problem is that small percentage are fatal or egregious violations of human rights (not to mention the civil and constitutional rights of Americans). They’re also morally repugnant.

    Police have refused over and over again to “police” their own, so it’s time for municipal and state governments to step in and make them do it.

    I’m all about the defund movement. It’s long overdue.

    In America, we say we do not countenance kings or tyrants. Well…it’s time to remove a tyrant from our midst and replace it with the system that civilian policing was meant to be: service and protection of the communities in which they live and of which they are a part.