Hundreds of protestors continued to take up residence next to City Hall, awaiting the City Council vote on a new city budget that will shift $1 billion from the NYPD towards other services.
Demonstrators were awaiting a final version of the city budget, many seeking to make sure re-directed funds should be spent properly for services that include mental health, homelessness, health care and youth programs. However, protest organizers were still trying to figure out the end-game that would give the demonstration an exit strategy other than to fight an eventual assault by police to clear the plaza.
The budget vigil dubbed #OccupyCityHall came to a head during the early morning hours Tuesday as several people were arrested when riot police moved in to remove barricades erected by the protestors. Police were also seeking some vandals who had spray-painted a nearby courthouse.
Officers moving some of the barricades were met by angry demonstrators, leading to several arrests. Protestors screamed “Let him go,” witnesses said.
Vandals also spray-painted anti-police slogans on a lower Manhattan courthouse early Tuesday. The vandals hit the Surrogate’s Courthouse at 31 Chambers St., which had been untouched by the demonstrators until now.
Police arrested 18-year-old Dominique Tombeau of Brooklyn at around 2:40 a.m. on June 30 and charged him with scrawling at least some of the graffiti on the courthouse. The court handles cases such as those involving wills.
Leaders of the protest were preparing their minions for a projected assault by police to clear them out, some teaching the protestors how to resist officers who might try to remove them.
By 6 p.m., the plaza became more crowded with protestors arriving late into the day, where they were all awaiting a final budget announcement. On hand was famed attorney Sanford Rubenstein accompanied by Rev. Kevin McCall, but involved in defending those arrested by police and representing those abused by cops.
“I’m just here to show my support,” Rubenstein said as he weaved his way through the crowd.
One protestor, who identified herself as Nell of East Flatbush, said what matters now is what is done after the protests at City Hall end.
“We have to make sure that services go to the right places and back to the people,” Nell said. “We have to be involved and bring people along and make sure we don’t just drop what we are doing.”
She said she will be part of a Brooklyn protest 0n Friday night at Utica and Church Avenues, where she will take her concerns to her community, many of Haitian descent.
Kaneme Holder of Black Issues, a on-line discussion program, said an exit strategy was difficult, because she said that once the budget is complete, there will be infighting between groups as to how to spend the money properly.
“There are those who reduced this movement to just defund the NYPD, which is cause a polarization for those who are for social justice and for those who want law and order,” Holder said. “If we can agree that systemic racism exists, then this budget by default is funding that racism. We will have to see how that money is allocated, but how it is spent.
“How much of this is a coalescence of not having jobs, no club and dances, half the time you couldn’t get a hair cut, and spending a billion hours taking selfies, so now we have to think beyond defunding and move to do something about it,” Holder said.
At one point, a man started yelling at the protestors from the street, his words incoherent over the blaring of bullhorns by those trying to counter him. He soon left without further incident. Another man walked around with a Donald Trump sign, but he didn’t enter the protest area. More unusual was Spiderman giving out pizza to the masses.
The budget is expected to be completed and signed by 8 p.m. today, leaders say. It was remained unclear as to whether #OccupyCityHall will continue, with some saying they will stay until they see “real change.” An exit strategy was still not worked out among the protest leaders, with some say they will hold the space “indefinitely.”