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Protesters shut down NYC Council hearing as NYPD calls for more police

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Protesters outside City Hall in New York before a hearing on the NYPD. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

On Thursday morning, the public was barred from a New York City Council hearing on the New York Police Department’s yearly budget after protesters interrupted a statement by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton with chants of “No New Cops!”

As police officials, politicians, and citizens gathered at City Hall for the hearing, a group of protesters gathered just outside the building with signs reading “End the Broken Windows Era” and “#NoNewNYPD.” At the rally, speakers from various activist groups spoke and offered critiques of Broken Windows policing, the controversial model of policing championed by Bratton, which focuses on small, quality-of-life crimes, “community policing” and proposals by local politicians to add 1,000 new officers to the NYPD. According to the protesters, all three policies criminalize and disproportionately affect poor communities and communities of color.

Later as Bratton gave his statement to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, he was interrupted by someone screaming to “End Broken Windows.” After that person was escorted out by security, Bratton resumed speaking for a few minutes until he was interrupted again by another protester. Gradually, the disturbances became more and more frequent until one protester stood up in front of the council members, called them “sellouts,” and told Bratton that he “should be fired.” Chants of “No New Cops” echoed throughout the chamber at that point. All members of the public were then told that they were no longer allowed inside the hearing because of the interruptions.

“A few of us sat down and decided we needed to put our foot down on the outrageous way cops are actually benefiting after they killed Eric Garner and Akai Gurley,” said Josmar Trujillo, an organizer for the Coalition to End Broken Windows, who participated in the protest. “So we’re calling out all these sellout ‘progressive’ politicians for proposing 1,000 more cops during historically low crime and right after thousands protested the entire department.”

One of the protesters, a young woman, was also arrested, and while being escorted to the police van, she called for an end to Broken Windows policing and specifically denounced Councilmember Jumaane Williams for his support for increasing the size of the NYPD. Along with Bratton, Democratic politicians like Williams and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have been some of the biggest supporters of a push to boost the NYPD’s ranks despite their reputations as leading progressives of color.

“Many of us continue to believe very strongly that this police department needs more police officers,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement last month. “And if we put in place effective community policing the way it is supposed to be, you need more officers on the ground interacting with communities.”

This alignment with Bratton and the NYPD’s requests for more cops and more “community policing” has earned liberal-leaning politicians like Mark-Viverito and Williams the ire of activists and community organizers. As a result, anti-police brutality protesters have focused their efforts on confronting these progressive politicians along with Bratton and the NYPD.

“Cops, like Pat Lynch, will say just about anything to get more resources, more members/dues,” Trujillo said. “But the key will be Mark-Viverito and how she’ll try to keep acting like more cops, more policing are completely in line with her ‘progressive’ vision of New York.”

Rather than an increase in the number of police and the intensity of their policing, the protesters say that resources would be better spent on improving communities and providing much-needed social services.

“Take that money for the thousand cops, forecasted between $97-120 million per year, and invest it into high poverty neighborhoods,” said Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, an organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “We can use that same funding to potentially realize full employment for youth or hire over 2,000 social workers who can address needs in schools and homeless communities around mental health supports. You’ll do right by those people, who are usually the victims of Broken Windows, and do much more to keep crime down than 1,000 guns and badges.”

Protesters support a woman who was arrested for disrupting a hearing at City Council hearing on the NYPD in New York. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

Protesters support a woman who was arrested for disrupting a hearing at City Council hearing on the NYPD in New York. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

Once outside the hearing, the protesters saluted their arrested friend with raised fists, as she was escorted into a police vehicle. Then they congratulated each other for successfully bringing their message directly to the police officials and politicians that needed to hear it.

“We shut it down, and it’s about time that people in New York City started pushing against their political establishment and their police department like those in Ferguson, Los Angeles and Oakland have been doing,” Trujillo said. “We’ve got to continue to keep putting all of our bodies into these political institutions that make sure the NYPD continues to go on killing us untouched and unaccountable.”