All photos by the author.
Activists led by VOCAL-NY gathered near City Hall Tuesday to demand that the budget for fiscal year 2022 divest money from the NYPD and into community development programs.
“We need money for youth jobs (SYEP), violence prevention, non-cop crisis response, #policefreeschools, #nycbudgetjustice” read one of the protesters’ signs.
The activists hailing from different groups had clear demands: Invest money in programs like summer youth employment, mental health services, transportation, and housing among other community development programs. According to the activists, such a move would help prevent the conditions that cause crime rather than police’s method of simply responding to crime through criminalization and mass incarceration.
Malachi Robinson of racial justice organization Color of Change crunched numbers as he spoke to the crowd. “For every dollar the NYPD gets, youth development gets nine cents, parks and rec gets seven cents, and mental health services only gets 19 cents,” he said.
Communities United for Police Reform presented supporting figures showing that a total of $38.8 billion was spent on the NYPD in comparison to $5 billion spent on youth and community development between 2014 and 2020.
They also showed that in the seven year span between 2013 — the year Mayor Bill De Blasio was elected — and 2020, the NYPD saw a $1.2 Billion increase in spending, roughly 63% more than the amount spent on health (including mental health) services.
“Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” the crowd of activists shouted — a chant that has rand through the streets of New York since the George Floyd uprisings erupted last summer.
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Speakers who had lost loved ones to police brutality were equally emphatic in their calls to defund the police.
“If you take into account all those police officers who killed Amadou, Mohammed Ba, who killed Delrawn Small, Sean Bell, Eric Garner…and all these police officers keep on cashing their checks” said Kadiatou Diallo.
Her son, Amadou Diallo was notoriously shot 19 times in 1999 by NYPD Street Crimes Unit officers Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss who allegedly mistook him for a wanted armed rape suspect. When Diallo ran into his apartment and attempted to pull out his wallet and identify himself to the officers, they opened fire on him in the doorway of his Wheeler Avenue apartment in Soundview, The Bronx.
“If you take a life, you have to be responsible. You have to face the consequences. This never happened,” Diallo’s mother added.
Within a year the officers were all acquitted and Diallo’s family was awarded a $3 Million settlement by the city. The officers were taken off regular duty and “retrained.” Following mass uproar, the Street Crimes Unit was disbanded. McMellon and Murphy joined the FDNY, Carroll retired in 2005 and Boss had his firearms returned in 2012 by Commissioner Ray Kelly and was promoted to Sergeant in 2015.
Mercy Baez has a similar story. Her cousin Anthony Baez was killed in the early hours of his 29th birthday, December 22, 1994, when Anthony and his brothers were playing in the Bronx’s Mount Hope neighborhood when their football hit NYPC officer Francis Livoti’s idling police car. Livoti arrested Anthony’s brother David and then attempted to arrest Anthony who resisted by folding his arms, leading to Livoti’s placing him in a lethal chokehold.
Livoti was convicted by a federal court in 1998 and served six and a half years for criminally negligent homicide. Prior to killing Baez, nine police brutality complaints had been filed agains Livoti.
“The police’s response was to be very violent and rough toward them and it resulted in his murder,” Baez said. She went on to express her support for the defund efforts. “Completely say no to fiscal year ‘22 [proposed budget]. We need to implement change in our community through funding. There’s so many areas where we need support but instead it’s just going to the police.”
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Efforts to defund the police have been sharply scrutinized as crime rises in New York City, an issue that received a hefty amount of screen time leading up to the mayoral election as NYC’s mainstream media outlets hyper-focused on the fear-inducing issue.
Malachi Robinson challenged the new rhetoric around crime. “New York is the safest big city in the country and crime is actually at a record low,” he said. “What people are referring to is the spike in gun homicides which is determined by the fact that we came out of a pandemic — people weren’t outside.”
NYPD figures via NYC.gov, confirm that shootings have in-fact risen 166% between April 2020 and 2021. Index crimes such as murder, rape and robbery are also up by a 30.4% in the past year.
Ex-cop Eric Adams is the leading candidate in the Democratic Mayoral primaries and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa won the Republican primary. The Guardian Angels are a Staten Island-based, self-proclaimed street patrol group.
“In the event that Adams wins, we’re going to need to fight even harder to defund police and to actually prioritize the needs of our communities under that administration,” State Senator Julia Salazar told The Indypendent.
Robinson pointed out to naysayers that the NYPD hasn’t been defunded yet crime is on the rise. “Police do not stop crime, they respond to crime” he said.
On June 30 the city council passed the fiscal year 2022 budget, increasing NYPD spending by $200 million.
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