The Demand to #DefundNYPD is Alive and Well

Image is a photograph of a subway station entrance/exit in downtown Manhattan by City Hall covered in hand painted signs about police brutality and abolishing the police. Text on signs includes: “Oink! Oink! Oink! Cops are Killers”, “Abolish the Police”, “Black Lives Matter”, and “Justice for Layleen Polanco”. Further in the distance beyond the subway entrance are a crowd of people gathered. Beyond the people are high rise buildings.

What a year it’s been — we just passed the anniversary of New York City’s explosive uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, hundreds of miles away, yet all too familiar. The spectacle of violence opened old wounds that never really healed, and the energy in the streets catalyzed something electrifying: a mass reimagining of what public safety really looks like for New Yorkers. It has never been more obvious that the system we have isn’t just broken — it’s fundamentally flawed in a way that’s unfixable.

That’s why we’ve never wavered in our commitment to defunding the bloated NYPD budget—and reallocating those resources towards the things that New Yorkers need to lead fulfilling, dignified, happy, healthy lives, like education, healthcare, mental health services, secure housing, fair wages, plus equal access for all to all of the aforementioned resources.

Media coverage may have lessened, establishment politicians may have wavered in the commitments they never really meant to make good on to begin with, and cops may have spent the year targeting and brutalizing protestors who have continued to take action against policing and in defense of Black life, but the need to defund the police is more urgent than ever.

No matter how passionate you are, it’s challenging to keep up with any one campaign for any single issue in one of the biggest and best (we might be biased) cities in the world—especially when so many tectonic shifts have been happening around us on what feels like a daily basis. That’s why we’ve laid out a roadmap through the current state of the movement to Defund the NYPD — the political climate, the activist landscape, and the street protest scene — with one major takeaway: the work isn’t over. Not even close. No matter who you are and what you can do, if you want to defund the police, we need you sprinting towards the abolitionist horizon with us.

The issue of cutting down the NYPD’s bloated $6 billion budget has not faded from the political conversation, despite the best efforts of Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson to pacify us with a hollow $1 billion dollar cut that wasn’t. Defund has remained a talking point in both the upcoming city council and mayoral elections — and politicians are committing to our demands.

  • Despite recent union-busting turmoil, the Dianne Morales campaign stood out in a crowded mayoral race by adopting Defund’s demands — $3 billion dollars in cuts to the NYPD budget, no new jails, and closing the prison on Riker’s Island were all stances that defined the Morales campaign and forcing other mayoral candidates, especially other candidates running as “progressives,” to come up short in comparison.
  • 36 candidates from 23 districts covering all 5 boroughs signed onto the Real Public Safety Pledge, committing to rejecting PBA campaign contributions, demanding an NYPD hiring freeze, and cutting a total of $3 billion from the NYPD budget over the course of their 2-year term if elected. Is your candidate missing? Use our toolkit to pressure them to sign.
  • District 26 in Queens already has 4 candidates, 20% of all candidates in that race, on the pledge.
  • Over 100 candidates were identified as supporting some “Defund-style” policies. Check out where they are here.

While establishment types on the Right, in the Center, and on the (white) Left claim Defund is murky and unpopular, some numbers tell a different story:

  • Though the widely trumpeted March 2021 Ipsos/ US Daily News polling showed just 18% of respondents “support the movement known as ‘defund the police,’” the same report found that 43% support the idea to “take a portion of the budget for police in your community and redirect those funds to social services.” That’s a full 25% gap due to biased reporting & wording, in the same respondents.
  • On a local level, recent polling from Data for Progress found that 53% of NYC Dems prefer mayoral candidates who want to shift “significant budget & responsibilities away from the NYPD,” with only 24% of those polled in opposition. What might those numbers have looked like in April 2019?

There are too many excellent explainers, overviews, websites, workshops, videos, podcasts, crowdsourced guides and books relating to Defund and other abolitionist demands to name one by one, but one thing is for sure: Anyone who says they don’t understand that defunding the police means reinvesting in communities is willfully ignoring us. In this city alone, NYC-DSA’s #DefundNYPD campaign is joined by:

  • VOCAL-NY’s Caring and Compassionate New Deal, a set of demands which also demands a $3 billion budget cut from the NYPD and further calls for cuts to district attorneys offices and correctional funding in order to fund guaranteed housing and access to care
  • CPR’s NYC Budget Justice with its ongoing campaign to push cops out of schools and protect the repeal of 50a at a state level
  • The Defund NYPD Coalition, which is bringing together organizations committed to demanding for Mayor DeBlasio and City Council to pursue real public safety by reallocating 50% of the NYPD’s budget to education, healthcare, housing and other community investments proven to support healthy communities. Most recently, the coalition organized a rally and march through East New York to mark the first anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd and to demand justice and accountability for all New York families victimized by members of the NYPD.

The NYPD wishes we were tired. They wish we’d shut up and go home. Too bad, so sad! The anti-cop street protest movement in New York City might be less visible than last summer, but it is mighty. Here are a few groups who’ve been putting their bodies on the line multiple times a week since last summer’s record-breaking actions:

  • The weekly Stonewall Protests, helmed by Black trans women, have been a consistent presence and thus a prime target, suffering random fascistic backlash. Still, just this month, NYC Pride banned cops at its annual parade through 2021, a move that harkens back to the very first Stonewall Riot and gels with the vicious attacks at last summer’s Queer Liberation March. Cry about it, NYT Op-Ed board!
  • The Fire Artem protests are powered by an urgent, on-the-ground demand: Fire Artem Prusayev, an NYPD officer who pulled his weapon on protesters on January 12, 2021. These protesters have already forced Prusayev to switch police precincts and may have even caused him to make an impromptu move, and they’re not even close to leaving him be.
  • Despite the many, many other reasons the Capitol was overrun on January 6, 2021, Congress is now throwing more money at Capitol Police instead of examining how the police state really works — and what role cops played, literally or implicitly, in the events of the J6 Riot.
  • Despite the history of anti-Asian and anti-sex worker violence from the police — and the NYPD in particular — cops have been presented as a solution to anti-Asian hate, with calls from mayoral candidates like Andrew Yang and Eric Adams to further police Asian neighborhoods, and at a federal level, thanks to a hate crime bill that pumps money into law enforcement.
  • Despite the hard work of organizers, state legislators are scrambling to undo the progress Defund campaigns have made. Florida has already passed anti-Defund legislation, while Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Iowa have bills with similar aims passing through their state legislature.

While the Defund movement is still very young, the demand it is built around is rooted in the abolitionist organizing work of Black women stretching back into the 60s. As such, backlash against the call to defund the police is to be expected — it’s torn from a familiar playbook, the screech of the ruling class when faced with an undeniable threat: people with conviction, building power and fighting together as we barrel towards a socialist horizon. If we continue to do so, we can and we will win.

Join us to continue the fight to #DefundNYPD, fund the people, and build a New York City that works for everyone:

#DefundNYPD is a campaign led by NYC-DSA, a local branch of the National Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). They are the largest leftist organization in the United States — and support the people’s demand to defund the police and abolish the prison industrial complex. The DSA works collaboratively with community members, labor unions, and grassroots organizations to build a mass, multiracial, democratic abolitionist movement.

Racial Justice Working Group is part of the NYC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Follow us as we #DefundNYPD and refund the people.