Hundreds of people join ‘Occupy City Hall’ Thursday night to call for police defunding

Photo by Dean Moses

The crowd of protesters occupying City Hall grew to over 1,000 Thursday night after the families of those killed by police called on the city slash the New York Police Department’s budget by $1 billion. 

Protesters, activists and musicians from across the five boroughs chanted, sang and marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge after listening to speakers like Constance Malcolm, mother or Ramarley Graham, Hawa Bah, Carol Gray and Sammy Feliz.

“We pay the NYPD so much money and they constantly kill our people,” said Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah. “They killed my son, Mohamed, in front of me and neighbors while we were begging for them to let us talk to Mohamed.”

“We need more social workers, teachers, and guidance counselors in schools – not police. Mayor De Blasio and Commissioner Shea must go because we need people in office that will stand up for us, not just the police.”

After marching near City Hall and Manhattan courthouses on Tuesday, about 100 protesters decided to spend the night on the grass and concrete next at the Corner of Center and Chambers Sts. 

Photo by Dean Moses

Protesters pledged to “occupy City Hall” until the New York City’s fiscal year 2021 budget deadline, June 30, demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to shrinking the NYPD’s normally $6 billion budget by $1 billion. 

De Blasio vowed to divert NYPD funds to youth and social services earlier this month following 10 days of protests against police brutality in the city sparked by the death of George Floyd who died in the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25. 

Since the occupation started demands have changed to include the expulsion of NYPD security agents in schools. 

“The NYPD needs to be defunded and that money should be used to provide services and financial support in ways that do not criminalize or police people,” said Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham. In 2012, officers broke into Graham’s home in the Bronx and shot the unarmed teen suspecting that he had a gun. We need more social workers, teachers, and guidance counselors in schools – not police.

Photo by Dean Moses

Like during the city’s other marches against police brutality, occupiers and speakers occasionally called for Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea’s removal. 

“Black and Brown communities are not getting what we need to survive,” said Justice Committee Leader London Arnold. “Our focus should be on building and funding a community-based accountability infrastructure as an alternative to policing and criminalization. This is a moment for the City Council to show us how much they value Black and Brown lives and the development of our communities and future generations.”