NY police take down 'Occupy City Hall' encampment

NY police take down 'Occupy City Hall' encampment
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The New York Police Department (NYPD) took down the “Occupy City Hall” encampment early Wednesday after protesters there had demonstrated against police brutality for about a month.

Police dressed in riot gear removed dozens of people out of City Hall Park starting shortly before 4 a.m. Wednesday, after several homeless people had gathered at the encampment in recent weeks, The New York Times reported. Footage posted to social media showed police advancing with plastic shields.

Officers arrested seven people during the clearing after outbursts between officers and those at the camp. Police tossed the tarps and makeshift tents that encampment residents had been using into garbage trucks.

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City cleaning employees showed up by 8 a.m. to clean the graffiti off nearby buildings, the Times reported. 

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Protesters created the encampment on June 23, with more than 100 protesters, as they called for an at least $1 billion cut to the NYPD budget. The encampment, based off the Occupy Wall Street movement, grew with hundreds of people sleeping in the park every night, according to Times. 

The encampment's creation came after protests broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The city’s council voted to move almost $1 billion from the police department's budget, prompting many of the protesters to leave the encampment within days, although some demonstrators wanted more cuts for police. 

After the vote, the encampment ended up evolving to care for the homeless population, but issues broke out, including fights and harassment, according to the newspaper.

New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City will rename Brooklyn municipal building after Ginsburg New York to honor Ginsburg with statue in Brooklyn The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill MORE (D) said during a Wednesday press briefing that he evaluated the situation for the past two weeks with police. He said the gathering became "less and less" about the protest.

"We always respect the right to protest, but we have to think about health and safety, and the health and safety issues were growing," the mayor said.

De Blasio had previously said he would allow the police to decide when to intervene with the encampment. The NYPD did not immediately return a request for comment.

Jawanza James Williams, the director for organizing for VOCAL-NY, which organized the demonstrations, told The Hill that the raid exemplifies the "signs of fascism" in the U.S.

Williams criticized de Blasio for taking a "politically expedited position to crush" the encampment instead of addressing the problems of homelessness and the expected evictions of thousands during the pandemic.

"We should be very disappointed in our mayor," he said, adding, "He has woefully failed us."

The decision to take down the encampment comes as the federal government has sent armed personnel to quell protests in Portland, Ore., that have sometimes turned violent. President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE has threatened to send officers to other American cities such as New York City and Chicago, citing heightened violence.