“Defund the Police:” Why Protesters Are Occupying New York City Hall

New York activists, including VOCAL – NY, have been occupying City Hall since June 23 in an effort to get lawmakers to defund the police by at least $1 billion.

“You cannot move our bodies out of this space until you give us that $1 billion,” says activist Tatiana Hill.

The Defund-the-Police push that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s killing has both galvanized protesters in the street and shaken up city halls across America. So when the mayor of Cincinnati proposed an increase, rather than a decrease, in police funding next year, the reaction was swift.

One after another, infuriated residents grabbed the microphone at city council hearings in the past week to blast Mayor John Cranley and demand that his million-dollar spending increase be voted down.

“This budget is nothing more than kindling on the fires that are burning our communities to the ground,” one speaker shouted at the hearing held last Thursday. Later that night, as tensions continued to mount, the committee chairman abruptly suspended the session, prompting protesters to pour into the streets of downtown Cincinnati, where they burned an American flag and defaced the convention center hosting the hearing with graffiti. In the end, the city council on Wednesday decided against an increase, keeping the police budget unchanged.

While Congress remains at an impasse on an overhaul of U.S. policing practices, activists are rolling up partial victories in cities along the country’s coasts. The leaders of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle have all pledged to slash police spending, but the raging debate in Cincinnati highlights how contested this fight is. Police budgets have long been considered untouchable, even as residents call for money to be funneled into other types of services like social programs and affordable housing. They say those programs, rather than more training and equipment for police, will ultimately lead to safer streets and better protection for Black communities.

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