- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2020

Georgia Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both insist they oppose defunding the police, a message that might be more convincing if they didn’t enjoy staunch support of the Black Lives Matter PAC.

The relatively new political action committee, which champions the “defund the police” slogan, has embraced the Democratic hopefuls, holding voter-turnout events and releasing a campaign ad on Dec. 22 that includes a mural of NFL free agent and fierce law-enforcement detractor Colin Kaepernick.

“This election matters because we need representation: of race, background, & generation,” tweeted the BLM PAC on Monday. “Let’s get @ReverendWarnock & @ossoff in.”

Launched Oct. 7, the BLM PAC’s co-founders include Black Lives Matter Global Network Executive Director Patrisse Cullors, a self-described “trained Marxist” whose Twitter account is named, “fund the u.s. postal service – defund the police.”

The BLM PAC also is sponsoring virtual phone banks on behalf of the Georgia Democrats with the Working Families Party, whose “People’s Charter” includes a call for “shifting resources away from policing, jails and detention centers.”

The charter has some political juice behind it. Signers include Democratic progressive heroes such as Rep. Ro Khanna of California and all four members of “The Squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

In the 30-second BLM PAC ad, a jogger runs past farms, houses and a mural of Mr. Kaepernick, who took the Black Lives Matter “defund the police” rallying cry a step further in October by calling for the abolition of police and prisons. He famously wore socks depicting officers as pigs at training camp in 2016.

The Ossoff and Warnock campaigns both confirmed in emails Monday that the candidates do not support defunding the police.

Still, the discrepancy between that message and their BLM support has not been lost on Republicans.

Mr. Ossoff is running against Republican Sen. David Perdue, while Mr. Warnock is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, in the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.

“BLM PAC supports a number of radical policy positions, including defunding the police, emptying prisons, and abolishing ICE, along with a litany of other proposals that would weaken public safety,” said Georgia Republican Party spokeswoman Abigail Sigler in a statement. “They are backing Jon Ossoff and radical Raphael Warnock because they know they will fight for their extreme socialist agenda.”

The debate comes with homicides surging in Atlanta. Police logged 155 homicides in 2020, the most in 22 years, after three people were killed over the Christmas weekend, including a 16-year-old girl shot at a hotel and a 7-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Blaming slogan

Republicans are far from the only critics of the “defund the police” slogan. Top Democrats, including President-elect Joseph R. Biden, have blamed the message for Democratic losses in November.

Mr. Biden said in a Dec. 8 audio recording leaked to the Intercept that the slogan allowed Republicans to “beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not.”

He warned against using the message in the Georgia runoffs.

“I just raise it with you to think about how much do we push between now and Jan. 5 — we need those two seats — about police reform,” he told civil rights leaders on the call. “But I guarantee you, there will be a full-blown commission.”

Former President Barack Obama said in a Dec. 2 interview that “snappy” slogans such as “defund the police” risk alienating voters, saying, “You lost a big audience the minute you say it.”

Even so, the BLM PAC is not backing down. “If you are worried about whether defund the police is the right slogan, you are part of the problem,” said the group on SnappySlogan.com.

On Dec. 10, the BLM PAC tweeted: “When BLM PAC calls for #DefundThePolice, we call for investment. This is not just a hashtag or snappy slogan for us. It is a movement and vision for a world where Black Lives Matter.”

The BLM PAC reportedly plans to spend $500,000 to elect the Democrats, a goal backed up by its fundraising. As of Nov. 23, the PAC had already raised $476,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Republicans accuse Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Warnock of being more open to cutting law-enforcement funding than their recent statements would indicate.

“Jon Ossoff may be heeding Joe Biden’s advice to conceal his support for defunding the police until after the election, but that hasn’t stopped radical, far-left organizations from spending heavily to get him elected,” said Perdue campaign spokesman John Burke. “He can try to hide it all he wants, but Georgians already know Ossoff would vote against their safety and security and defund the police if he ever got to Washington.”

In June, Mr. Ossoff told radio host Rashad Richey that “you’ve got to be able to hold individual officers and entire departments accountable, and there also has to be funding for those departments on the line,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Then again, Mr. Ossoff told CBS News in June: “No, I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to the police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”

Mr. Warnock, the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, referred in a 2015 sermon to, “in Ferguson, police power showing up in a kind of gangster and thug mentality. You can wear all kinds of colors and be a thug, you can sometimes wear the colors of the state and behave like a thug.”

His campaign has said that Mr. Warnock was referring to “a specific incident in Ferguson, Missouri,” in which 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was Black, was shot and killed by a White police officer in 2014.

The Obama administration Justice Department declined to prosecute the officer after an investigation.

Mr. Warnock also has insisted he does not want to defund law enforcement. “Let me be clear, I oppose defunding the police. But we have to respect law enforcement enough to hold them accountable,” he tweeted Oct. 19.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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