A couple of hundred demonstrators gathered Monday in New York’s City Hall Park, protesting police brutality and calling for the resignation of New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the defunding of the NYPD.
The protesters, who were part of the police and prison abolitionist activist group Millions March NYC, are also demanding that victims of police brutality and their families be compensated through a reparations fund drawn from NYPD coffers.
The protesters have a long list of incidents to draw from. In the summer of 2014, the police killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man selling cigarettes outside a store, set off mass protests in New York City. A grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Panteleo, the officer charged with killing Garner through the use of a choke hold–a tactic officially banned by NYPD training guidelines. Soon after, another unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, was killed by police, this time in the stairwell of an East New York housing commission building. The officer in that case, Peter Liang, was convicted of criminally negligent manslaughter and given a sentence of five-years probation and community service–meaning no jail time.
Since Garner’s death, some NYPD officers have come forward to talk about the department’s use of excessive force on people of color. In 2014, a group of current and former officers of color told Reuters that they themselves have experienced racial profiling and the use of excessive force when they’ve been off duty.
Millions March organizer Nabil Hassain emphasized in an interview that the group does not believe that reforming the NYPD to avoid police brutality against people of color is viable. They want the police force to be shut down entirely, and replaced by other community-based programs.
“We do not believe that the NYPD can be reformed into anything good,” Hassain told me when I went to City Hall Park on Monday. “We understand it’s not going to happen overnight, we want to see it be completely defunded and dismantled, and eventually we want to see it be replaced by institutions that actually exist to serve our communities because we know the NYPD doesn’t. They need to be gotten rid of completely and replaced by alternative institutions, by mental health first responders, by community-based programs, by rehabilitation.”
At around lunchtime yesterday there were around two dozen protesters sitting on the sidewalk with signs and milling around the fountain in City Hall Park. By later that night, their numbers had grown. They moved overnight to a nearby park that’s open 24/7:
They returned to their post at City Hall Park on Tuesday morning:
“Our plan is to maintain our encampment until our demands are met,” Hassain said.