‘Everybody Will Second-Guess’: Liberal Mayors Navigate Protesters and Police

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Biden held a virtual round table with Mr. Garcetti, Ms. Bottoms, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn. The former vice president said he sympathized with protesters’ concerns but also denounced “violence that endangers lives and guts local businesses is no way forward.”

Ms. Lightfoot, who faced some criticism during her 2018 mayoral run about her record of police accountability as leader of the Chicago Police Board, said mayors supported peaceful expression of dissent but were focused on rooting out bad officers.

“Look, we’ve had our fair share of dark days in Chicago around police violence and shooting,” she said. “But I do think it’s important for us to not allow forces of darkness to conflate people’s righteous anger and need to express themselves in their protected First Amendment rights.”

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of Jackson, Miss., said it was time for the party to embrace not just police reform, but “deconstructing the criminal justice system.” Mr. Lumumba, 37, said even if this moment seemed like a flash point, the inequities, racism and despair that create the tension run much deeper.

“There’s an economic reliance on the system of policing,” Mr. Lumumba said. “You have more police today than you ever had. You have city police, county police, state police, federal police, secret police, secret police that watch the secret police. You have probation and parole officers, prison guards, companies that contract out with the prison.”

“We rely on the overincarceration of our society,” he said.

Crime control bills helmed by Mr. Biden in the late 1980s and early 1990s helped transform the relationship between local, state, and federal justice systems. In Monday’s round table with mayors, Mr. Biden said public officials needed to reckon with police brutality, citing the “incredible pain and legitimate anger that is the root of these protests.”

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