'Occupy City Hall' protesters demand $1B budget cut for NYPD

Protesters calling themselves "Occupy City Hall" have camped out in New York to call for a cut of at least $1 billion to the city's police department budget.

The more than 100 protesters began camping out in front of New York City’s City Hall beginning Tuesday night, and say they will stay there until their demand is met.

The cut would represent one-sixth of the New York Police Department’s $6 billion budget. 

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The protesters say the money should be redistributed to "community reinvestment" like social services, housing, health care and education. The protests organized by VOCAL-NY come ahead of the city’s June 30 deadline to finalize its budget, including for the police department.

"Mayor [Bill] de Blasio has thus far rejected this demand, which is unconscionable," VOCAL-NY said in a release. "We have questions about City Council promises to support our demands, because we have not seen their plan outside of a vague press release. We view this lack of transparency and specific public commitments as a red flag."

Occupy City Hall protests arose out of the demonstrations over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other Black people at the hands of police.  

The demonstrations have also led to calls to defund the police, which involves shifting money from police departments to other resources,.

“We wanted to make sure that the whole world knew that if you’re calling to defund the NYPD, that you need to be here to make sure those folks in the building behind us know what’s happening,” Jawanza James Williams, the director of organizing for VOCAL-NY, told BuzzFeed News.

Occupy City Hall is taking inspiration from the “Occupy Wall Street” protests that started in 2011. The demonstrators have pledged to eat, sleep and protest in an area of grass outside City Hall and have received donations of food and other supplies after announcing their plans.

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The protesters lined up on towels and sleeping bags as separated as possible from each other to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

De Blasio said at his Wednesday press conference that the city’s leaders agree money needs to be reallocated from the police department to social services in the budget.

“That's taking money from one place and moving it to another place, but we believe, absolutely, all of us, the Council and I, believe in common that that reprioritization has to happen,” he said. “What amount of money, how, is still being worked through.”

The mayor said the police would “address the situation” at City Hall to ensure people’s rights are protected and public safety needs are met.