June 8, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Hundreds of City Hall employees held a rally downtown this morning to protest the way Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD have handled the demonstrations over the past week.
The de Blasio staffers, consisting of both current and former employees, assembled at City Hall Park and demanded that their boss enact concrete reforms to the NYPD and decried the violence officers inflicted on peaceful protesters they witnessed firsthand.
“We expect better. We demand better,” said Catherine Almonte, a former executive assistant to the mayor. “We are demanding radical change now to keep Black New Yorkers alive.”
De Blasio and the NYPD have come under fire for their handling of peaceful protests in New York City following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Critics say the mayor has all but ignored reports and videos of officers closing in and arresting peaceful protesters for violating the 8 p.m. curfew he enacted last week. They are upset that the mayor has allegedly come to the defense of the NYPD despite video evidence showing peaceful protesters being hit with batons and subject to other violence.
One former staffer at the march this morning described her own arrest for breaking the mayor’s curfew during a protest in Brooklyn.
She said she was taken to a local precinct and questioned by FBI agents along with two young men of color, who weren’t participating in the protest when they were arrested.
“Their arrests were every bit as arbitrary as those under stop and frisk,” said former staffer Hannah Shaw of the mayor’s office of economic opportunity.
“We need an independent commission to investigate the Mayor and the NYPD’s action of these last few weeks…#CityWorkers4Justice#BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/Wpg0qKm7y0
— CityWorkers4Justice (@CityWorkers4NYC) June 8, 2020
De Blasio revoked the 8 p.m. curfew Sunday, a day earlier than it was set to expire. He also pledged to divert funds from the NYPD to youth and social services yesterday — but refused to give an exact amount at a press conference in Brooklyn this morning.
The coalition of former and current staffers want to see the NYPD budget slashed by $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2021, which begins July 1. They want the funds to be reallocated to essential social services, like housing support and rental relief, food assistance and health care.
More than 400 of the staffers penned an open letter to de Blasio last Wednesday, listing their demands for greater police reforms. There are now more than 1,000 signatures on the letter, organizers said.
They said de Blasio’s reforms announced Sunday fall short of real change.
“Despite these symbolic gestures and platitudes, his own words contradict his calls for reform,” the organizers wrote in a press release. “The Mayor’s minimization of the NYPD’s handling of this current crisis is an insult to New Yorkers who continue to experience violence at the hands of the NYPD.”
They are calling for the immediate firing of NYPD officers found to have used excessive force or to have covered their badge numbers at protests.
De Blasio attempted to dismiss the protest this morning by claiming it was mostly former staffers.
“Look, there’s a very big difference between former staff and current staff,” he said at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “Current staff, we had a good conversation yesterday… I want to hear their concerns.”
People were just asked to raise your hand if you currently work in the administration. Wow. pic.twitter.com/XqYXxgonWd
— Caroline Lewis (@clewisreports) June 8, 2020
However, he added that his office has more work to do to enact police reform measures to the NYPD.
“We’ve got work to do. There’s no question,” de Blasio said. “And I said to my team we’re going to do that work.”