Protesters occupy City Hall – or close to it – until a deal is reached on defunding NYPD

Jawanza James-Williams from VOCAL-NY (right). Photo by Mark Hallum

By Mark Hallum

As the budget for the upcoming fiscal year reaches its June 30 deadline for passage in City Council, a group of protesters is trying to keep the heat on Council Speaker Corey Johnson stick to his commitment to defund NYPD in a meaningful way.

This will involve the demonstration camping out just beyond the gates of City Hall new Centre Street, specifically the lawn to the north, until the budget is passed.

To Jawanza James-Williams, organizer of the demonstration with VOCAL-NY, the police department does not take a constructive role in substance abuse, homelessness or mental health complexities. When it comes to responding to people experiencing mental illness, James-Williams said that too much funding go toward cops with an annual $6 billion budget, while only a fraction goes to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“We’ve called people here today to articulate what $1 billion can actually do for communities and we’ve decided to stay camped here until they do that because the budget is going to be sealed by the 30th and we want to make that the whole world knows that [Mayor Bill de Blasio and Johnson] are the ones responsible if we don’t see a reduction in the NYPD budget,”  James-Williams told amNewYork Tuesday evening.

Photo by Mark Hallum

As the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in late May continues to make rippling effects across the country, Johnson has backed a slew of law enforcement reforms such as criminalizing the use of chokeholds by police and has backed the plan to reduce the NYPD budget considerably in the days remaining.

As of 7:25 a.m. on Wednesday, protestors were still at the location.

One of the ways Johnson and City Council have identified for slashing NYPD costs in the fiscal year 2021 budget is through cutbacks in staff, not through layoffs but through attrition, cutting overtime and removing NYPD from certain responsibilities. While some, such as the Traffic Enforcement Agents, have spoken out against being absorbed back into other agencies such as the city Department of Transportation, the Speakers office has said they will not be the target of uniformed headcount reductions.

Photo by Mark Hallum

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