An Emotional John Oliver Explains What It Means To ‘Defund The Police’ On ‘Last Week Tonight’

With the exception of calling the president “utterly f*cking disgusting” for invoking George Floyd’s name during a rambling speech about the economy, Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight was about one topic and one topic only: the police. “It’s genuinely impossible to overstate how enraging that is,” host John Oliver, showing more fury than usual, said after showing footage of cops harming peaceful protestors. “They’re protesting excessive force by police, and police just start pepper-spraying them like it’s f*cking sunscreen. And that’s just one of hundreds and hundreds of videos.”

Oliver covered “how the f*ck we got to this point, what the obstacles to reform have been, and what we can do going forward,” including pop culture’s fetishization of the police (he referred to Lethal Weapon as Manic Bigot and His One Black Friend), how law enforcement has always been “entangled with white supremacy,” and police unions. “I get unions fighting for their workers; that is 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.” He also discussed defunding the police:

“Defunding the police absolutely does not mean that 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.”

Oliver ended the segment with a message to viewers. “Ours 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 absolutely unforgivable,” he said before showing a video of author Kimberly Jones talking about the protests. Watch it above.