‘Let’s talk about defunding’: City Hall protesters repeat calls to reduce NYPD budget

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Jamell Henderson talks about council members abandoning them for not supporting a billion in NYPD cuts. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Hundreds continue to camp out around City Hall on Centre Street as activists insist on a billion dollars in cuts to the NYPD, even if it results in significant layoffs and drastic reduction community patrols.

While some of the young leaders of the demonstrations gathered Sunday on the steps of the Department of Education Tweed Courthouse building on Chambers Street, they insisted defunding the NYPD to boost youth, social service, and education programs. 

They also used the platform to slam City Council members for not jumping on board with defunding. Nevertheless, they also want a seat at the bargaining table.

The protests began on May 28 with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, causing a firestorm against police departments across the country. It also reignited tension against the city’s department over several other deaths at the hands of police including Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, and Sean Bell.

Protestors seeking a billion in NYPD cuts continue sleep in at City Hall. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Privately, some city insiders say a billion in cuts would dramatically reduce patrols in communities of color, where many of the rashes of shootings, homicides and sexual assaults have been occurring. One said, “nobody wants to go back to constituents and tell them they will have less police protection.”

Also, a billion in cuts to a budget that is nearly 90% salary would mean layoffs, meaning the newly hired would be slashed, including many new black and brown members of the department that are helping to improve the racial make-up of the NYPD.

Several council members have taken a hard line on the billion-dollar cut, including Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Carlos Menchaca, who believe the police presence is more of a hindrance towards neighborhood peace than beneficial for community protection  — both of whom were at a similar demonstration on the same steps last week.

Protestors seeking a billion in NYPD cuts continue sleep in at City Hall. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Young black community leaders amassed on the steps of the DOE, led by Jamell Henderson, a professor at City University and from the CUNY Rising Alliance, who believes a billion-dollar cut “would not have any effect on the NYPD.” 

“We are here as proud black people and proud black community leaders,” Henderson said, “and we are pissed off at the direction and the stalemate of progressive-ism that is happening in our communities. We are community leaders abut action and we are here to call out our black elected officials who beg and plead for our signatures to be on the ballot. We are demanding that all our taxpayers who are paying you $150,000 a year, to be a leader to be selfless instead of selfless.”

Protestors seeking a billion in NYPD cuts continue sleep in at City Hall. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“We are here to demand that the NYPD has $6 billion budget more than 10 state operating budgets, to be defunded, and return that money to invest in our communities,” he added. “Not to charity programs, but to direct service-based organizations as well as non-profit organizations. We are here to call out those elected officials to say we are disgusted and disappointed.”

Henderson said the police reform bills recently enacted “are not enough for us.”

“It’s not just about police reform, it’s about educational reform, mental health reform, social service reform, it’s about health care reform and environmental justice reform,” he said.

The advocate specifically called out City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and several lawmakers, claiming they weren’t listening to them.

Black leaders seek a billion dollars in NYPD cuts. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

However, when asked potential repercussions of reduced NYPD funding, he replied, “and?”

The City Council continues to meet on Zoom conferences, and have not met at City Hall since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, hundreds remained parked on the grassy triangle at City Hall on Chambers and Centre Street, many having spent several days camped out demanding cuts tot he NYPD budget of a billion dollars because of continued police brutality.

One protestor said, “I’m not leaving until I hear they cut a billion dollars. Besides, I don’t have a job so this is my job.”

Protestors seeking a billion in NYPD cuts continue sleep in at City Hall. (Photo by Todd Maisel)