July 15, 2020

“Black Lives Matter” camping in New York



The protests against police violence and racism that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis (USA) have led to a massive camping trip in front of the City Hall in New York, where for a week they have been calling for deep cuts in the Police Department of the city and a change in the priorities of the city.

“We are asking that this year they withdraw at least a billion dollars from the Police funds” in New York, whose budget amounts to six billion, Celina Trowell, one of the organizers of this protest, explains to Efe, agreeing with the official announcement by the mayor, Bill de Blasio, that he will support these cuts.

In front of a bookstore built by several volunteers where books related to the civil rights of the black community and indigenous peoples are lent, Trowell insists that they want to make sure “that this money is taken from the police, because that money allows the system of structural racism on which the police were founded continues to be perpetuated. ”

In a statement, “Vocal”, the NGO to which Trowell belongs and that last Tuesday led the initiative to stand in front of the Town Hall, rejected the proposal that the mayor defends and called it “a betrayal of the movement”.

“We are serious about our demands for the next budgets and this agreement is not even close,” they said in a brief statement.

The request to withdraw funds to the police force, which materialized during the protests that took place throughout the city, was received by the municipal council, with the president of the Assembly, Corey Johnson, and the spokesperson for the majority Democratic Party, Laurie Cumbo, in the lead, but until this morning De Blasio, also a Democrat, looked at her suspiciously.

“My office presented the City Council with a plan that will save billions of dollars for the police and transfer resources to youth and communities in a way that will help address many underlying issues that we know are the cause of so many problems in our society, “said the councilor at a press conference.

However, “Vocal” considers that the project presented by De Blasio “preserves the resources and power of the police, without any dismissal among the uniformed personnel and continues the mayor’s initial proposal to starve communities devastated by the crisis in the coronaviruses, -whites, Latinos and other communities- “.

A MULTITUDINARY CAMP

A mosaic of people, posters, slogans and political demands, tents, mats and sleeping bags, and a dozen information and service offering stalls flood the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which its current occupants have dubbed the “Plaza of Abolition. “

“While there is a multiracial crowd here, this is direct action by black leadership, which has been led by black organizers like me and we do not want that to be lost,” says Trowell.

There are so many people, signs and movement that it is difficult to stop looking at a specific place. Free food and non-alcoholic beverages are offered at several stalls, another table welcomes newcomers and those who want to help run the camp, and at another, there are masks, disinfectants and different medications available to protesters.

The concentration even includes a laundry service and a schedule of nearby venues that have opened their bathrooms to protesters.

A young American of Peruvian origin, who identifies as Javier, and who temporarily attends the laundry center, assures that Latin Americans also suffer in the United States, but not as much as blacks.

“Until blacks are free, we will not be free,” he says before insisting that the lives of black people matter and that he participates in the protest because he wants things to change.

A LONG-RUN PROTEST

Many of those present are determined to continue the protest despite the fact that their main demand has been met.

An example of this is that in a public meeting, called the “Popular Assembly”, which started today at 12:30 am local time, the three months that the 2011 “Occupy Wall Street” protest camp lasted the corruption of the system and the creation of a security committee was announced to solve the problems of coexistence, and to teach techniques to protect oneself from the police and in case of police charge or being arrested.

The person in charge of this group, who identifies herself as Line, tells Efe that several people like her, with experience in similar protests, have met to help organize the camping and in anticipation that it will continue.

“There are many things you should know when you occupy a place, it involves various risks and I want to help people to know how to behave in those situations,” adds Line, who ensures that between 500 and 600 people stay overnight.

In the “Popular Assembly”, microphone in hand and with the support of several cards written in black and red, an organizer shares with those present the immediate demands, long-term requests and “ambitious demands” that try to find a common denominator to the great variety of voices.

Some requirements that can be read on many posters scattered around the square, such as one that can be seen under a banner that says “The life of blacks matters” and that keeps a dozen empty mats together.

In addition to withdrawing funds from the police, they demand that this money be invested in health, housing and education, and that prisoners be released, among other things.

“This is just the beginning … we are going to keep asking for more,” concludes activist Celina Trowell.

Jorge Fuentelsaz

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