Two newly elected New York City Councilmembers and a pair of socialist state legislators were among 17 people arrested Tuesday at an anti-eviction protest. The demonstration in downtown Brooklyn took place outside a public hearing on the State of New York’s failure to release billions of dollars in pandemic rent relief to tenants facing eviction proceedings as soon as the end of this month.
The protest in Downtown Brooklyn was in response to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision suspending New York State’s eviction moratorium. More than 300 tenants and their allies rallied at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza. They demanded that incoming Governor Kathy Hochul call the state legislature back to session and pass a new eviction moratorium that lasts until June 2022. They also called on the State to stop using the Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) and to immediately dole out $2.4 billion of rent relief funding to New Yorkers who owe back rent and will be subject to eviction as soon as August 31.
“We need to get back to the Assembly! We need to do our work!,” said New York Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, who has previously been evicted herself. Speaking to a cheering crowd, she continued, “Why is this not a priority? I’ll tell you why. Because we live in a capitalist society that prioritizes property owner’s rights over the rights of tenants.”
According to Crown Heights Tenants Union, only 8,000 out of 170,000 applicants to New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program have received funds so far.
The arrests took place after the NYPD’s automated arrest warning (“This is the New York City Police Department. You are unlawfully in the roadway and obstructing vehicular traffic … If you refuse to leave the roadway you will be placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct …”) began to blare out of loudspeakers. The event’s organizers ushered most protesters to the sidewalk. The 17 who remained were arrested and escorted to police vans. Among the arrestees were Mitaynes (D-Sunset Park) and Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani (D-Astoria) along with newly elected City Councilmembers Sandy Nurse (D-Bushwick) and Alexa Aviles (D-Sunset Park).
As arrests were made, the crowd chanted, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
Nearly 100 NYPD officers were on hand including a large group of Strategic Response Group members. The SRG has been heavily criticized in recent years for its rough treatment of protesters. In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to reduce its role in policing protests.
“It’s unbelievable that the SRG is here right now, that so many NYPD funds are being funneled into superfluous police presence when all of that money could be going towards protecting housing, protecting tenants, especially in the middle of a global pandemic,” Erinrose Mager of NYC’s Democratic Socialists of America Housing Working Group told The Indypendent.
If you need help with rental assistance, check in with one of the groups present at the protest: The Metropolitan Council on Housing, Housing Justice for All, Inquilin@s Unid@s/Tenants United, Make the Road New York, Flatbush Tenants Coalition, Crown Heights Tenants Union, NYC-DSA Housing Working Group and Ridgewood Tenants Union, among others.
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