Hundreds of New York City cultural workers in the art world are calling for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slash funding for police amid the global unrest over the May 25 death of George Floyd.
The open letter by two New York-based curators, Natalia Viera, co-founder of Pública Espacio in Puerto Rico, and Patrick Jaojoco, director of programs at FABnyc, demands the city shift its budget “away from the NYPD, and towards social and civic services and education programs.”
“We should and have been asking: why are there are so many white men on boards and in positions of power? In a fundamentally racist society, in which silence equates to violence and ‘business as usual’ actively destroys our communities, why hasn’t there been more concrete action from the arts community to end systemic racism?” said Viera and Jaojoco about the open letter.
“We need to start acting in our schools, art institutions, the architecture and design industries, and elsewhere, to think beyond ways in which we can be more ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive,'” they added.
Viera and Jaojoco said they spearheaded the letter in the wake of this year’s global trauma and its domino effect across social lines of demarcation.
“We saw a silence where there needed to be loud and immediate demands to change this system so that all oppressed communities can be free,” they added.
Global protests were sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.
In the last week, the left nationwide has called for police forces to be abolished.
“They don’t think the police can be fixed, so they’re trying to figure out how to reduce the burden of policing,” Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College who also wrote “The End of Policing,” told Reuters.
Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.
State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.
New York City Council members Corey Johnson and Daniel Dromm promised to cut the NYPD’s $6 million budget, The New York Times reported.
“The culture in the New York City Police Department has not changed,” Dromm told the newspaper. “The white shirts, the commanding officers, they kind of get it and talk the talk, but the average beat cop doesn’t believe in it and we’ve seen this over and over again.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told protesters during a Saturday demonstration in the city where Floyd died that he didn’t support the “full abolition” of the police department.
Those attending the event organized by the local advocacy group Black Visions issued a plea to the mayor to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, the Star Tribune reported. The protest ended up outside Frey’s home and he came outside to address the crowd.
After saying that he’d been “coming to grips with my own responsibility,” the Democratic mayor was asked whether he would defund the police force.
“I do not support the full abolition of the police department,” Frey told the crowd, adding that he favored police reforms. He then left after being told to do so.
President Trump on Sunday made the issue the new political call to action.
“I want great and well-paid law enforcement,” Trump tweeted. “I want law and order.”