After three months of sustained public protest, Black Lives Matter organizers have proposed the BREATHE Act, a four-part proposal named after the phrase uttered by Black men Eric Garner and George Floyd while in police choke holds. The plan aims to codify the movement’s core objective: redirecting federal funds away from police, prisons and other parts of the criminal justice system into underserved communities of color, Politico reports. “I think that we’ve demonstrated over time that we have the rigor and the relationships and the expertise to truly generate meaningful ideas into public policy solutions,” said Jessica Byrd, organizer of the Black National Convention, a virtual gathering of activists taking place Friday night. While its architects recognize it does not have the necessary backing on Capitol Hill, they argue it’s an important marker for activists as they seek to turn the momentum gained through a summer of protest into political wins.
Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, says, “the BREATHE Act really represents an opportunity to galvanize voters, particularly Black voters, in this election cycle.” The BREATHE Act goes beyond criminal justice reform to include proposals relating to climate change and health care. When the Movement for Black Lives requested a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus to present the plan, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arranged it. Harris has made no commitment to backing the BREATHE Act. The Democratic National Committee declined to adopt the proposal as part of the party platform, though it did include the phrase “Black lives matter.” Even in the Democrat-controlled House, the legislation is likely to face a frosty reception. Most Democrats in Congress have already rejected the idea of defunding the police. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has proposed a $300 million investment in the COPS program to hire more police officers.