New York Police Department officers clad in riot gear emptied out an “occupy” protest that sprung up around NYC City Hall weeks ago in a dramatic pre-dawn raid, according to local media.
The protest, which began on June 28 with just 100 protesters, had spilled over into the street as demonstrators demanded a massive cut to the NYPD budget. Although New York City mayor Bill de Blasio happily complied with demands to “defund the police,” slashing the NYPD’s operating funds by nearly a billion dollars and canceling more than 1,000 planned hires, protesters remained unsatisfied given that de Blasio refused to officially sign the change into law.
The protest had dwindled in recent days, but early Wednesday morning, NYPD cleared what remained, tossing demonstrators out of a nearby park and dismantling the City Hall tent city.
“Lines of officers in heavy gear were seen at Lafayette Street and Leonard near the criminal courthouses. Some were telling protesters and others on the street to move back as the swarm of cops moved in. Officials said those in the encampment were given a ten-minute warning before the clear-out began,” a local NBC affiliate reported. “Protesters say their tents, tarps, and other belongings were trashed by police.”
Police expected to arrest at least one person — an unnamed individual who, days earlier, had thrown a brick at an NYPD officer — but ended up taking at least 7 people into custody. Protesters put up only a brief fight before completely clearing out.
— Max Hornig (@swarmofgaybees) July 22, 2020
City officials told local media that the area will be closed off “for several weeks” as crews work to remove graffiti from nearby buildings and clean up the protest’s remains.
At one point in time, according to Insider, the “autonomous zone” around City Hall was a huge gathering of activists, non-profits, and even retailers, but things took a turn in recent days after Bill de Blasio announced he would delay signing a bill cutting funding to the NYPD as gun violence spiked in the city, and retailers trying to sell goods within the “occupied” protest were booted out of the “anti-capitalist zone.”
At one point, the mayor himself said the city was reviewing the protest “day-by-day” to determine whether to allow it to stay. On Tuesday, apparently, de Blasio, who noted that the city does not allow long-term protests, deferred to the NYPD and allowed police to toss protesters off city property.
“There is a balance we always strike between the right to protest and especially public safety. And I always put public safety first while respecting constitutional rights,” de Blasio said Tuesday.
De Blasio may have also allowed the NYPD to clear the protest in order to prevent the Trump administration from using the visible public unrest as an excuse to send federal officers into the city.
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