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'Last Week Tonight' With John Oliver Explains 'Defunding The Police'

Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

John Oliver takes on police brutality in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight.

John Oliver, host of HBO's Last Week Tonight, delivers a message about the Black Lives Matter protests, police brutality, and the overwhelming racism that is exhibited in this country.
In the beginning of the episode, Oliver begins by summarizing the events of the past few weeks: police intervening in protests inspired by the deaths of several black people, President Trump's comments on the matter, and the response from local officials nationwide to how people are fighting for the total abolishment of the police system. Then, Oliver dives into his points for how the police has been portrayed in American society, saying:
"Let's start by just acknowledging that the police have long enjoyed an exalted role in American society. In pop culture, they're the heroes of beloved movie and TV shows [...] America loves nothing more than a renegade cop who doesn't play by the rules. But of course, the reality of policing is and has always been very different."

Oliver then takes us into a deep history lesson on how the policing system in America has strong ties to white supremacy, and that our system of lawmaking and law enforcement has always had strong influences on promoting white power. In making his points, he draws from literature, films, and news pieces to draw out moments in American history that have showed disconnect and denial of the existence of police brutality. An example of this is mentioned when he refers to the year 1967, considered by most as the year of love, but also a year of immense amounts of protests against police brutality and segregation, very similar to the current situation in America. Oliver states:

"Police in the South were responsible for enforcing segregation while allowing and sometimes participating in lynchings and anti-Black terrorism. And as black people migrated to the North by the millions, they were met there, yet again, by brutality. All of this, coupled with the continued denial of economic and housing opportunities, not always particularly subtle by the way, meant that by the summer of 1967, there were a series of high profile uprisings against racial injustice across the United States. Or as white people actually describe that exact time [as the summer of love]. Yeah, it is known as that. And that's a pretty big disconnect, isn't it?"

Oliver goes through the entire 33-minute episode pleading with viewers that America's history of deep-rooted racism and white supremacy is what has brought us here time and time again. He sites events such as police misconduct cases, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, qualified immunity, police militarization, cuts to funding important social services, and much more. He emphasizes his explanation for defunding the police by saying this:

"Defunding the police absolutely does not mean we eliminate all cops and just succumb to the purge. Instead, it's about moving away from a narrow conception of public safety that relies on policing and punishment and investing in a community's actual safety net. Things like stable housing, mental health services, and community organizations. The concept is that the role of the police can significantly shrink because they are not responding to the homeless or to mental health calls or arresting children in schools or, really, any other situation where the best solution is not showing up with a gun. That is the idea behind defund the police, if you actually listen to it."

Last Week Tonightwith John Oliver has new episodes every Sunday on HBO with past seasons available for viewing on HBO Max.

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Elizabeth Alvarez