The president of the NAACP declined to endorse the “defund the police” movement that has gained momentum in recent days, after Minneapolis lawmakers announced they have the votes to do just that in their city -- where the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody touched off nationwide protests.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said he backs “the energy behind” the movement, but did not offer explicit support for it.


“I support the energy behind it,” he said. “I don’t know what that substantively means. As I’m talking to people about the concept, I’ve gotten three different explanations.”

He added: “We know there has to be a change in the culture of policing this country.”

What defunding the police looks like is different in various localities. In Minneapolis, the supermajority of the City Council seemingly supports a complete structural dismantling of the department. In other places, departments would remain in place but get fewer government resources, with some of their funding directed toward social justice programs.

But many top Democrats have been reluctant to speak out on the sudden momentum behind the movement.

Sources told Fox News Monday that top House Democrats warned rank-and-file members on a conference call about being sucked into a debate about defunding the police, amid concerns about its impact on their election chances.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday were asked by a CNN reporter if they supported the movement to defund the police entirely.

“That’s a local decision,” Pelosi said, noting that they would have “those debates at the local level.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to pile more money on to further militarize police,” she reportedly added, without directly addressing whether she supports the radical step some local activists are demanding.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was in a similar position on ABC’s “The View,” where she avoided directly answering whether she backs the movement.

“We need to reimagine how we are achieving public safety in America,” she said, noting that cities that direct “one-third of the budget to police” instead of “public schools, job training and job creation—come on. We have to be honest with this.”

When asked where House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., stood on the issue, his office told Fox News that: "Whip Clyburn supports restructuring police departments to ensure resources are deployed to protect and serve all Americans equitably.”

Some Democrats, though, have started to speak out against these demands.


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden initially was mum on the issue, but on Monday afternoon his campaign released a statement saying Biden “does not believe that police should be defunded.”

Later Monday, Biden, during an interview with CBS News, addressed the issue personally.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” he said. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.”

Other vocal opponents of the movement include Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the leader of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.


Minneapolis’ left-leaning City Council members on Sunday announced a veto-proof push to disband the Minneapolis police, even as the mayor made clear he does not support abolishing the department.

And in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to make cuts up to $150 million to the city’s police department and redistribute the money to “black communities and communities of color.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced over the weekend that he will be diverting funding for the New York Police Department toward social services.

“The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead. But, I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people,” de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are stepping up attacks on Democrats who are going along with calls to defund the police.

A National Republican Congressional Committee email Monday carried the subject line, “Democrats are insane,” slamming efforts to "abolish" the police.


“No industry is safe from the Democrats’ abolish culture,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement. “First they wanted to abolish private health insurance, then it was capitalism and now it’s the police.”

He added: “What’s next? The fire department?”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also spoke out against the movement, calling it “outlandish,” while President Trump has repeatedly supported law enforcement, and called for order.

"LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE. The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!" Trump tweeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.