Minneapolis council member says she was ‘deceived’ into giving speech on ‘defund police’ stage

Cunningham praised people who threw bricks at police officers while standing on a stage that said "DEFUND POLICE." However, Cunningham now says she doesn't want to defund the police.

Phillipe Cunningham appears on a stage that says
Phillipe Cunningham appears on a stage that says "DEFUND POLICE" last summer. (YouTube/UnicornRiot)

A Minneapolis council member who called for a new system of policing while standing on a stage that said “defund police” in giant letters now claims she never wanted to defund the police.

Phillipe Cunningham is the first black, gay, female-to-male transgender person to become a council member in the city. Last year, Cunningham appeared alongside eight other council members at a protest in Powderhorn Park. The centerpiece of this demonstration was a stage that prominently featured the words “DEFUND POLICE” in bold, all capital letters.

Although Cunningham voted late last year to remove $8 million of funding from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), she said she doesn’t actually want to defund the police and was “deceived” into standing on the defund police stage.

However, while on that stage in June 2020, Cunningham apparently suggested that Minneapolis doesn’t need police.

“It is possible for us to keep our own community safe,” Cunningham said. “In north Minneapolis as the buildings were being broken and burned by white supremacists and extremists, MPD was nowhere to be found … so we had to come together ourselves in order to protect our community.”

Cunningham also praised the people “who threw the first bricks at police officers at Stonewall,” calling on the crowd to “honor our elders.”

Now, Cunningham’s trying to backtrack.

“I didn’t know that that was on the front of the stage. Like, you know, I got got,” Cunningham said at a recent candidate forum. She said she didn’t think to check the front of the stage either, as she lacked staff to advise her to do so: “I’m in my first term, I don’t have people, staff, who advance me and do a 360 around stages.”

Cunningham does, however, maintain a belief in reorganizing the police department. “Would I stand on the stage now and agree to dismantle? I wouldn’t use that language, no, but I … still agree that a system reorganization is a common-sense next step,” Cunningham said at the forum.

This apparently includes efforts to make the department smaller, according to Cunningham’s own statements last August. Cunningham said then that she desires a public health approach to policing as well as “building a comprehensive approach to public safety where law enforcement plays a role, but is right sized.”

Cunningham also supports an upcoming referendum to replace MPD with a new department of public safety, according to KARE 11.

Meanwhile, crime rates are still soaring in Minneapolis. The violent crime rate in the city is 956 per 100,000 residents. The violent crime rate in Chicago is a slightly lower 948 per 100,000.