CITY HALL, Manhattan — Activists donning #BlackLivesMatter shirts and signs naming victims of police violence have gathered at City Hall Park ahead of an anticipated rally Monday night.
With the promise to “shut down city hall,” Millions March NYC assembled the outdoor sit-in, which organizers say they plan to continue until they are granted the following demands: NYPD Commissioner William Bratton is fired; reparations are taken from NYPD budget to pay victims of police brutality; and NYPD’s multi-million budget is instead invested into minority communities.
While a rally is not scheduled until 6 p.m., a large police presence was noticeable Monday afternoon. Dozens of uniformed NYPD and Parks Department officers were stationed in the park and around City Hall, with barricades placed along the edge of the sidewalk in preparation for a large number of protestors.
While Millions March doesn’t expect their requests to be met immediately, they want to see action taken as a result of their demonstration, organizer Vienna Rye said.
“We’re really here to build up our own strength,” she said. “We can then go back into our communities and double, triple our strength and continue our work … We’re all here to dismantle this oppressive and just racist, capitalist system.”
Millions March members were joined by demonstrators from local organizations, including New Yorkers Against Bratton and We Will Not Be Silent. Activists camped out in the park to discuss police and racial issues, and lay out their protest plan.
Bronx resident Jose Lasalle, a co-founder of activist group Copwatch Patrol Unit, said the community does not want to wait for Bratton to voluntarily leave his post in 2017 — they want his immediate resignation so that police reform can happen now.
"We want de Blasio to come out into the open and make a statement that he's going to make sure when police officers break the law, they are held accountable," Lasalle said.
Some demonstrators were motivated to participate by their own personal run-ins and experiences with police. A Staten Island resident who goes by Sista Shirley in the community recounted the arrests of her sons when they were 16 and 17, who she said were minding their own business and apprehended on trumped up charges.
"My sons were just teenagers at the time," she said. "This should not be happening."
Shirley laid blame on the New York government as a whole for contributing to the tensions among police and blacks, but pointed out that Mayor Bill de Blasio has done nothing to fix the problem since he's taken office.
"He let us down," she said.