John Oliver Answers All Your 'Defund the Police' Questions

Throughout his time as host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver has never been afraid to sound off on injustice. And on Sunday’s episode of the hit HBO series, the host addressed the very major issue of police brutality amid ongoing demonstrations.

After showing clips of police officers assaulting peaceful protestors, Oliver had some scathing thoughts about it. “It’s genuinely impossible to overstate how enraging that is,” he told his audience. “They’re protesting force by police, and police just start pepper spraying them like its fucking sunscreen… and that’s just one of hundreds of videos.”

He also argued that law enforcement and police unions have always been tinged with white supremacy. “I get unions fighting for their workers—it’s what they do,” he said. “But police unions take that to a dangerous extreme and negotiate language into contracts that makes removing a problem officer incredibly difficult.”

And the crux of the segment? He passionately made the case for defunding the police. “[It] doesn’t mean that we eliminate all cops and just succumb to the purge,” he said. “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.”


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“This clearly isn’t about individual officers,” he continued. “It’s about a structure built on systemic racism, that this country created intentionally and now needs to dismantle intentionally and replace with one that takes into account the needs of the people it actually serves.”

“This is going to take sustained pressure and attention over a long period of time from all of us.”

Oliver concluded his segment by showing a video of author Kimberly Jones discussing the protests and relaying this message: “Our [police system] is a firmly entrenched system in which the roots of white supremacy run deep, and it is critical that we all grab a fucking shovel. To do anything less would be unforgivable.”

Watch the full clip here.

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