Occupy City Hall grows in numbers as NYPD budget deadline looms

Protesters demanding that $1B from police funds be reinvested into community programs

Protesters living in a tent encampment meant to Occupy City Hall kicked off their sixth consecutive day on Sunday taking up space in New York City to demand at least $1 billion out of the NYPD’s $6 billion budget be cut before the upcoming July 1 city budget deadline.

Photos shared on social media showed officers dressed in riot gear standing outside City Hall Park in lower Manhattan, where hundreds of people camped out Saturday night into Sunday morning.

The #DefundNYPD for #NYCBudgetJustice campaign demands the $1 billion be reinvested for services, programs and infrastructure that “directly benefits Black, Latinx and other communities of color most devastated by COVID-19,” according to the Communities United for Police Reform website.

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The same message was reposted by several users on Twitter, stating it is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker of the New York City Council Corey Johnson’s “duty” to defund the police department and that all elected officials opposed to the idea must resign.

“We the people at #OccupyCityHall will not stop until the budget works for ALL OF US. @NYCMayor @NYCSpeakerCoJo it is your duty to #DefundNYPD by half & re-invest it into our communities. Any opposed elected officials need to resign immediately. #NYCBudgetJustice #PeoplesBudget,” the message read.

De Blasio has committed to defunding the police, but has hesitated to specify by how much.

Police officials have said now is not the opportune time to defund the department given the number of shootings in the first three weeks of June has more than doubled compared to the same time last year. The spike in gun violence continued this weekend after at least 18 people were shot across New York City within a 24-hour period, WABC reported.

Protesters have been camping out on the lawn in tents and beneath umbrellas since last week. Organizers have been handing out free food and drinks, and people were seen playing music, dancing and singing, as well as creating artwork.

Signage displayed reflects support for Black Lives Matter, with several calling for justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last August in Aurora, Colo., after police placed him in a chokehold. His case has garnered renewed attention amid a global outcry sparked after George Floyd died while in Minneapolis police custody after an officer was filmed kneeling on his neck on May 25.

A group of Black Lives Matter protesters prepare banners at City Hall across from One Police Plaza as part of the "Defund NYPD" and "Occupy City Hall" movement after spending the night on June 24, 2020, in New York City.<br>
​​​​​​​(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A group of Black Lives Matter protesters prepare banners at City Hall across from One Police Plaza as part of the "Defund NYPD" and "Occupy City Hall" movement after spending the night on June 24, 2020, in New York City.<br> ​​​​​​​(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"We are very angry and very hurt,” Jawanza, one of the organizers of the "Occupy City Hall" protest, told NY 1 on Friday. “Black people across this country and hundreds of people across this city are outraged by the type of violence we continue to see perpetuated by policing and also by the NYPD, in particular.”

“But what people need to remember is that when black people express joy, that’s an act of resistance. White supremacist powers do not actually want us to scream with joy, to show up in the face of empire and in the face of oppression and do musical chairs and do jump rope, but that’s how we are resilient.

“That’s how we keep moving forward,” he continued. “That’s how we remain in our hope to actually get the NYPD defunded by at least $1 billion and make sure that we fund housing, education, health care, and social services for our people. We’re trying to build our joyful slate and achieve real genuine safety. And when people express the joy it reminds us what’s possible.”

Occupy City Hall nods to the similar 2010 Occupy Wall Street protest movement against economic inequality that began just blocks away in Zuccotti Park, located in the city’s financial district.

It also draws comparison to the more recent CHOP in Seattle, where protesters earlier this month declared a “no cop co-op” in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which included an abandoned police precinct.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan committed to several police reforms and allowed the occupation for over a week until four shootings, one of which was fatal, occurred in the zone where officers were said to be unwelcome.

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More than a dozen business owners have since filed a lawsuit arguing that the city violated the constitutional rights of employees and residents in the Capitol Hill area. The suit argues that the city provided resources and support to the CHOP occupiers despite acknowledging serious safety issues at night, as well as the widespread destruction of private property.