Jeremy Frisch didn't plan on yelling "fuck you" when he addressed the Los Angeles Police Commission during its virtual meeting earlier this month.
But, as he wrapped up his comments on the Los Angeles Police Department's response to protests against police brutality, it just came out.
"I yield my time. Fuck you," he shouted at the commissioners and LAPD Chief Michel Moore in the June 2 Zoom call, which has been viewed more than 1 million times in one YouTube stream. Clips of other public comments have also gone viral, and Frisch's sign-off has become an anthem among the hundreds of people now regularly calling into LA meetings, demanding the city spend less on police and adopt the People's Budget LA.
"I was just really mad," Frisch told BuzzFeed News days later. "We militarize our police and give them rubber bullet guns and give them tear gas, face shields, you know, stuff that makes them look like ... some sort of Call of Duty soldier. It’s ridiculous."
As people around the world continue pouring into the streets to support the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Angelenos have been channeling their anger into dragging city leaders during public meetings for funneling more than 50% of the city's general fund to the LAPD. It comes as people around the US are rallying around the idea of defunding police departments — and in LA, local activists were ready with their own proposal on how to use public dollars.
People's Budget LA, which was put forward by a coalition of community groups led by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, proposes allocating just 5.7% of the city's general fund to law enforcement and policing, while investing more money into community services and a new public safety system that prioritizes mental health and harm reduction.
"We know that by investing in housing, mental health resources, parks, and after-school programs you actually build safer communities where police become less and less important," BLM-LA cofounder Melina Abdullah told BuzzFeed News.
While the coalition started developing the People's Budget weeks before Floyd's death, recent protests have helped elevate their ideas as more and more Angelenos look for ways to take action.
"We were already moving this work, we were already saying, 'Defund the police,' but I think that George Floyd raised a consciousness among people, that he was really the last straw," Abdullah said. "I think his murder really illustrated why it's critical that we do that."
Now, people who have never participated in city government meetings are calling in to voice support for the proposal as they also express anger over the violence LAPD officers have inflicted for decades. According to a recent Los Angeles Times analysis, police in Los Angeles County have killed 886 people since 2000, nearly 80% of whom were Black or Latino.
"I don't think most people realized how much LA and how much cities spend on police," Abdullah said. "When it's put in their face and we can say, 'This is the mayor’s own pie chart.' Everybody understands a pie chart. That I think ... helps to move the conversation and the action along."
Frisch, a 21-year-old recent college graduate who identifies as biracial, said it wasn't until Floyd's death that he really started to pay attention to the racism that continues to plague communities of color, especially Black people, in the US.
"I don't think I was an ally for all my life, but right now, I do want to make that change and I want to try to help as much as I can," he said.
He decided to join the commission's Zoom meeting after seeing a post about it on BLM-LA's Instagram page and after police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas against friends of his who were out protesting.
Alex Bigelow, another first-time public commenter who told council members the current budget rewards "racist cops, aka the LAPD, aka the people whose buttholes many of you continuously lick," said she watched police use violence against and arrest peaceful protesters firsthand — which helped her see how broken the system is.
"I'm walking down the street and seeing literally a plethora of police officers and National Guard in head-to-toe riot gear, which costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars, when our healthcare workers can't even get masks to protect themselves when they’re trying to save people," Bigelow, 26, told BuzzFeed News. "It makes me mad, and it's not right."
While Black Lives Matter has been putting pressure on Mayor Eric Garcetti to defund the LAPD for years, it wasn't until this year that they developed an alternative budget proposal. Abdullah said they had wanted to hold a community budgeting session before, but the organization, which is volunteer-based, didn't have the capacity or resources to do it.
Then, in early April, after seeing the outsized impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black communities, Black Lives Matter worked with other Black leaders and organizations across the county to develop a list of 55 demands to address the health and economic fallouts in part by redirecting money from the police department's budget to fund community resources.
The city didn't respond to their demands. Instead, on April 20, Garcetti released a budget that cut money from infrastructure and city services — while increasing funding for the LAPD to pay for raises and bonuses for officers.
In response, Black Lives Matter worked several other social justice and grassroots organizations, like the Justice Collaborative, People's City Council, and Ground Game LA, to hold a virtual town hall and survey thousands of residents on how they wanted their tax dollars to be spent.
It was out of those efforts that the People's Budget became a reality.
The budget proposes investing the most money, about 44% of the city's general funds, into housing programs, food assistance, support for job seekers and small businesses, healthcare, youth programs, and emergency relief. The proposal allocates about one-quarter — 25.8% — of city funds to public transportation, libraries, parks, public works, and the fire department.
Another 24% of the general fund would be allocated to a category titled "reimagined community safety," which could include restorative
justice programs and community-led crime prevention, intervention, and recovery initiatives that don't involve the police.
"That’s the real idea behind it, is that you can defund the police and then use that money, reallocate the money so that you actually prevent crime in the first place," Abdullah said.
Because of the work Black Lives Matter has done in recent years and the work the budget coalition has done in recent weeks, organizers were well-positioned to funnel the explosion of anger resulting from Floyd's death into not only action in the streets, but also civic engagement.
"We put out toolkits that give people step-by-step instructions of how to call into the City Council [meetings], and then we give them a script of, pointers of what to say," said Ricci Sergienko, an organizer with People's City Council, which is part of the budget coalition. "It’s very easy to get people involved because that kind of digital infrastructure was in place."
The coalition has also organized Twitter storms and has been sharing a variety of illustrations and graphics, including one with Frisch's now-viral line, "I yield my time — fuck you," to engage and reach more people on social media.
"People like that. They want that kind of content, and so it's kind of like taking digital organizing and turning it into real-world possibilities of how we can engage people with local politics," Sergienko said.
The efforts have had some results so far. Garcetti recently announced that he would redirect as much as $150 million from the LAPD's budget into services for communities of color, a move the coalition called encouraging, but far from enough. On Monday, organizers plan to formally present the People's Budget to council members during a committee meeting.
"People aren't ready to just go home and take this $150 million and consider it a win," Sergienko said. "We’re going to continue pushing until we get what we want."