Spike Lee Speaks out on 'Defund the Police' Movement, Warns to 'Be Careful With Words'

Filmmaker and activist Spike Lee has some thoughts about the phrase 'defund the police,' which is currently being championed by protesters across the U.S. for weeks. In an interview with Off The Rails on SiriusXM’s TODAY Show Radio on Tuesday, the always outspoken director told co-host Al Roker that while he supports the movement, the phrase itself could end up backfiring.

Lee began by saying that he hadn't seen such an overwhelming movement like this since he "was growing up in the 1960s in Brooklyn," adding that he doesn' think "this is a fad." However, he did caution about the terminology used in some of the protests, specifically calls to defund the police. "Now it gets tricky when they say 'defund the police' because people are not thinking like 'we don't need police officers.' We need police! Let the record state, I'm telling my brother, Al Roker, we need police, but we need a police system that is just."

"They have to be careful with the words because already this guy is running with that," Lee continued. "You know the guy I'm talking about. Agent Orange. And again, he's trying to twist the narrative like they did with Kaepernick and the kneeling — trying to say that was about disrespecting the flag, but that wasn't it at all. We've got to be careful what we say because one or two wrong words, they'll twist that thing around and the narratives change. I don't think people are saying we don't need police at all, but 'defund the police...' I think there [could] be better terminology."

Some cities have already started the process of radically rethinking their police departments, including Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed by police during his arrest on May 25, which sparked the initial protests days later. Though Minneapolis' approach is drastic, defunding the police doesn't necessarily mean disbanding the force, and can involve reinvesting its budget into community programs.


There have been heated discussions over both the term itself and what it could potentially entail for cities, some of which already seem to prove Lee's point. Joe Biden, who will face off against President Donald Trump in the November elections, has come out against the movement. However, he has stressed the need for widespread police reform.

Off The Rails airs every Tuesday at 1 pm ET on SiriusXM Today Show Radio Channel 108. More information can be found on the channel's website here.