NYPD rousts City Hall occupiers demanding $1bn defunding as critical budget vote arrives (VIDEO)

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New York City police clashed with protesters occupying a park near City Hall ahead of a key budget vote that will decide whether the occupiers get their wish: $1 billion cut from the police budget and applied to social services.

NYPD officers swept in early on Tuesday morning to remove some of the barricades set up around the park behind City Hall, where protesters have been camped out for a week demanding deep cuts to police funding. The City Council is due to vote on the budget on Tuesday, with the final numbers expected at midnight.

Video of the raid posted to social media shows at least one demonstrator being detained as others scream “let him go.” In another clip, protesters are warned via loudspeaker that they will be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct if they don’t retreat to the sidewalk.

While it’s not immediately clear why police chose to clear out the encampment ahead of the budget vote, another video showed that a nearby courthouse had been blanketed in anti-police graffiti at some point on Monday night, including stylized images of dead pigs in police hats with “euthanize swine” written next to them.

Led by progressive advocacy group VOCAL-NY, hundreds of protesters took over the park last Tuesday, pledging to hold the land until Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to slash $1 billion from the NYPD’s $6 billion budget and redistribute it to community and social services, healthcare, and education. While the City Council was already on board with the idea before the protest even began, de Blasio was initially reluctant. However, he confirmed during a Monday press conference that he had submitted a proposal to the council that included the desired cuts.

The new budget cuts one billion dollars from the NYPD by nixing 1,100 new police recruits, originally scheduled to be hired in July, and canceling some homeless outreach programs, as well as placing “school safety agents” – police who patrol public schools – under control of the Department of Education. Some $500 million will also be cut from the NYPD’s capital budget and redirected towards building public housing and youth recreation centers.

Not everyone is satisfied, however. Communities United for Police Reform spokesperson Anthonine Pierre accused the mayor of running a shell game, excoriating him for “using funny math and budget tricks to try to mislead New Yorkers into thinking that they plan to meet the movement’s demands for at least $1 billion in direct cuts.” The group wants a full police hiring freeze.

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NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams went one step further, threatening to block the city from collecting property taxes until a full hiring freeze was enacted and the school safety agent program replaced with a “restorative justice” model. As public advocate, Williams’ job includes signing tax warrants – normally a mere formality. 

However, not all City Council members are on board with defunding. Staten Island Republican Joe Borelli warned “these actions will create a more violent environment environment in New York,” slamming de Blasio’s “government-by-hashtag,” and Queens Democrat Robert Holden suggested the mayor was trying to “appease the masses without considering public safety.” Defunding the police is a divisive issue, with a recent survey showing 51 percent of New York City residents support reducing funding to the force.

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