More than a dozen protesters marching for rent relief at Foley Square on Wednesday afternoon wound up in police custody after they were seen blocking Lower Manhattan traffic for about two hours.
On March 31, the Met Council on Housing — a tenant’s rights organization — and several other associations, including excluded workers undergoing a hunger strike, rallied in Foley Square due to failing budget negotiations between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Member Carl Heastie, and Stewart-Cousins on the Housing Access Voucher Program, eviction protections, rent relief, and funding for excluded workers. The budget deadline is April 1.
At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, hundreds gathered to demand that lawmakers protect tenants and the Housing Access Voucher Program. This initiative allowed those who lived in shelters or in unsustainable housing conditions to be able to transition into a stable home.
They also pushed for implementation of the “Invest in Our New York Act,” which would create six bills to increase taxes on the inordinately rich.
From Foley Square they marched, some being pushed in wheelchairs, others banging pots and buckets, but all calling out Cuomo chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho Andrew Cuomo has got to go,” “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” and “Tax the rich!” as they headed to 250 Broadway, the offices of Assembly Speaker Heastie.
On the eve of the fiscal deadline, protesters made certain their message was heard by onlookers and elected officials, hoping to cause a large enough spectacle and in turn draw more eyes to their case in what they called their “Last Stand for Rent Relief.”
After several speakers shared their struggles, losing their jobs due COVID-19, and their inability to keep up with rent and the complication of applying for eviction protection, they stepped along a crosswalk, blocking traffic from going down Broadway.
With banners in hands, reading, “#CancelRent” and “Essential and Excluded,” the demonstrators sat down and continued to loft raised fists, yelling: “We are the tenants, the mighty, mighty tenants fighting for justice. We are the tenants fighting against the slumlords!”
After almost two hours, officers gave a warning that those in the roadway would be placed under arrest if they did not vacate the area. While many moved onto the sidewalk, 14 individuals maintained their protest, clearly willing to sacrifice their bodies and freedom in order to garner more attention 5o the cause.
Armed with zip-ties, the officers moved in — lifting each demonstrator to their feet by binding their hands and dragging them away.