July 7, 2021

The Movement for Black Lives Celebrates BREATHE Act Anniversary

One year after its historic unveiling, the bill that presented a visionary framework to reshape public safety inspires local, state and federal legislation 

New York, NY — Today, the Movement for Black Lives marked the year anniversary of the unveiling of the BREATHE Act–inspired by the Vision for Black Lives, an omnibus bill born out of the George Floyd protests and rooted in the vision of 60 Black-led community organizations to reimagine public safety proactively and as a public health imperative for Black communities. 

“In the year since we unveiled BREATHE, we protested to defend Black lives, helped pass landmark legislation to make a wholesale shift in our approach to public safety in Illinois, and organized to participate in elections to build Black political power– all in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” said Gina Clayton-Johnson, architect of BREATHE Act, member of the leadership team of M4BL Policy Table, and executive director and co-founder of Essie Justice Group. “We know what keeps us safe. That is why 90 percent of the BREATHE Act proposes investments in our communities. Legislation like The People’s Response Act takes important steps to not only physically locate community safety outside of our criminal-legal system and inside of our largest health-focused institution, but to also make the sort of investments that actually keep Black people safe, repair past harm imposed by systemic racism and the War on Drugs, and end the criminalization of Black people.”

In every corner of this country M4BL has organized, protested, and voted against wanton police violence, against apathy towards hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19, and for health care, living wages, education – and Black futures. 

In the year since M4BL unveiled the BREATHE Act: 

  • More than two-thirds of Americans affirm that Black Lives Matter—a dramatic shift in public opinion from even five years ago. 
  • A new generation of movement-aligned Black leaders was elected to Congress, including the elections of Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Ritchie Torres, and Mondaire Jones. Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were reelected by large margins despite strong opposition. 
  • Police ballot initiatives designed to fundamentally change policing received overwhelming support from voters in more than a dozen cities. 
  • Nearly a dozen major cities also elected progressive district attorneys, including Georgia. 
  • Communities won over $840m in direct cuts from US police departments and at least $160m investments in community services. In 25 cities, such as Denver and Oakland, officials moved to remove police from schools, saving an additional $34m.
  • Portland, Oregon, cut $15m from its budget and disbanded a gun violence reduction unit and transit team that had both long been accused of over-policing Black communities. 
  • San Francisco officials pledged to divest $120m from police over two years with plans to invest in health programs and workforce training. 
  • Minneapolis reinvested $2 million in community-based violence prevention programs and a new mobile mental health team to respond to certain 911 calls.
  • Austin, Texas reallocated over $20m from their police department to emergency medical services for Covid-19, community medics, mental health first responders, services for homeless people, substance abuse programs, food access, workforce development, abortion services, victim support, parks and more. The city spent 40% of its budget on the police; it now spends 26%.

Last year, in the wake of the Floyd uprisings, The Movement for Black Lives unveiled the BREATHE Act, an omnibus framework based on the Vision for Black Lives, a collective platform of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country in 2015. In 2020, the Vision for Black Lives became the basis for a visionary bill to divest taxpayer dollars from brutal and discriminatory policing and invest in a new vision of public safety. Since, over 150,000 people have signed on as community co-sponsors of the BREATHE Act.