Current and former mayoral staffers march to Cadman Plaza, criticize de Blasio’s protest response

Hundreds of current and former mayoral and other city staff marched from City Hall to Cadman Plaza on Monday to call for police policy reform.
Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Current and former members of the de Blasio administration and various city agencies marched from City Hall to Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza on Monday in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the ongoing George Floyd demonstrations.

Hundreds of staffers also rallied together to call on Hizzoner to make good on campaign promises to reform the city’s policing policies. 

“I felt grateful to work for an administration that shared my values,” said former de Blasio staffer Catherine Almonte. “I believed that you [de Blasio] we’re going to make meaningful change from the inside … that’s what’s made this week so painful.” 

For the last 11 days, demonstrators outraged over the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd have taken to the streets to protest police brutality. After some nights of protests took a violent turn ending in looting, fires, and aggressive arrests, Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed an 11 pm curfew and doubled the number of officers patrolling city streets from 4,000 to 8,000.

But, despite the curfew and increase in watch, looting and vandalism continued — as did some violent arrests.

A day later, de Blasio bumped up the city’s curfew to 8 pm. Demonstrations continued each night — hours after curfew — with officers repeatedly and arbitrarily ending peaceful protests with baton beatings and by charging at protesters before arresting them at random. Each night, social media feeds were filled with video after video of police officers grabbing, shoving, and brutalizing protesters for no apparent reason other than to enforce an arbitrary curfew.

De Blasio came under fire after repeatedly siding with police officers over protesters, excusing police misconduct on “outside agitators” and a select few protesters bent on causing mayhem.

Monday’s march came just after high-ranking staffers penned an open letter to the mayor calling on his administration to reduce the New York Police Department’s operating budget by $1 billion in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which will be finalized by the end of the month, and invest those funds in social services like rent relief, food assistance, and healthcare.

Protesters also demanded that all NYPD officers guilty of using excessive force against demonstrators, or caught covering their badge numbers, be immediately fired. 

A crowd of current and former city staffers filled Cadman Plaza on Monday to protest the mayor’s response to the ongoing George Floyd protests.Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

“We don’t want to just defund the NYPD, we want to de-emphasize its role in our city,” said Almonte. 

Marchers also called for the city to release the names and official disciplinary records of NYPD personnel accused of using excessive force and other abuses of power — something that could be made possible with the repeal of section 50-a of state law, which makes the records of all police officers, firefighters and corrections officers confidential and only subject to review by court order.

Staffers also demanded that the city appoint an independent commission — similar to the Mollen and Knapp Commissions —made up of civil rights attorneys, journalists, and activists to investigate the mayor and NYPD’s response to May and June protests.

There was also a call to pass legislation that would require two-thirds of the City Council to approve a proposed curfew before it is implemented, and a similar two-thirds-vote to approve the appointment of future police commissioners.

As disillusioned staffers marched to Cadman Plaza, the mayor held a press conference at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in honor of the city officially entering Phase 1 of reopening after a shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. There, reporters pressed the mayor about former and current staffers concerned that he would not take the city in the “right direction” for the remainder of his term.

“If they have a concern I want to hear it … it’s been a very tough week or ten days, very painful, very emotional,” de Blasio said. “I still believe fundamentally after six-and-a-half years of making steady changes in this city, people should have faith in what we can do in the next year and a half.”

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.