NYPD officers surrounded City Hall Park with steel barricades early this morning in anticipation of a prolonged protest against police violence. The protest, organized by Millions March, a police abolition group that was responsible for several of the largest Black Lives Matter protests in New York over the last two years, promised an occupation of the park by at least a thousand people.
Nabil Hassein, a member of Millions March, said the protest is making three demands of the city: that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton be fired, and the “Broken Windows” strategy of policing he champions be repudiated; that the city pay reparations to victims of police violence out of the NYPD budget; and that the NYPD be defunded, and its budget reinvested in black and brown communities.
“The police have always been a racist institution,” said Hassein, 27, a Crown Heights resident. “When people talk about restoring trust in the police – when was there trust in police? In the Jim Crow era?”
Hassein added, “When you look at the communities in the city that are safe, they’re safe because they have the resources to take care of their people.”
Organizers plan to hold workshops in the park throughout the day, with a rally at 6 p.m. Some of those participating intend to stay overnight, breaking the park’s midnight curfew. “We’ve asked people not to bring individual tent structures for a variety of reasons,” Hassein said. “We don’t think it encourages the kind of communal atmosphere that we’re trying to build. We do have food, water, various supplies. We’ll be here until our demands are met.”
As of mid-morning, there were fewer than a hundred protesters in the area, with a proportionally heavy police presence watching over the park.
“I’m not going to deny, I’m nervous about the day,” Hassein said. “I can’t control what the violent racist police are going to do to us, but that’s not going to stop us from coming into the streets and letting our message be heard.”
Organizers released a pamphlet explaining their principles and demands. You can read it here.
The Voice will be reporting on the protest throughout the day.