Protestors gathered at Union Square on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 24 after a Kentucky grand jury decided Wednesday to bring no direct charges against Louisville Metro Police Department officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
The protest began on the steps of Union Square at 5 p.m. and headed east on West 15th Street, stopping in front of New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s home past Seventh Avenue. Hinde Sahmoud — a protest organizer and the co-chair of the Queens chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America — explained that Johnson pledged to cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department earlier this year and failed to do so.
“This time, our primary focus was really to send a message to Corey Johnson,” Sahmoud said. “I believe that we will win — I believe that we are all stronger together, and that it’s important to educate the public. The beautiful thing about protests is that it is a bunch of strangers coming together for a just cause. That’s why I’m here.”
Corey Johnson announced on Sept. 24 that he would be dropping out of the 2021 mayoral race, after the Daily News broke the story. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, with anti-racism protests and gun violence spikes dominating the political landscape, Johnson was considered a progressive star and major contender for the 2021 race.
While Johnson supported cutting the NYPD budget by $1 billion, police reform activists criticized him for the final bill, which fell short of his stated goal. In a contentious battle over the fiscal year 2021 budget’s allocation, the NYPD ultimately received $5.22 billion, $382 million, or 6.8%, less than the previous fiscal year.
Thursday’s march was in large part organized by the DSA, the largest socialist organization in the United States. Participants from Moms United for Black Lives Matter, Parents Supporting Parents New York, Communist Party USA and the New York City Fight for Our Lives Coalition also attended.
After speeches from DSA members, the group returned to Union Square, chanting “All cops are bastards!” and “Defund the police!”
CAS sophomore Sierra Ortiz said she came to the protest as a way to advocate for defunding the police and to support the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Taylor.
“I’ve always been a huge BLM supporter, and especially as a non-Black person, I feel a sense of responsibility to acknowledge the privileges I hold and use them to protect and listen to the Black people within our community,” Ortiz said.
Wagner graduate student Sally Burns said she is trying to do “little things” since she is Canadian and cannot vote.
“I am outraged with the murder of Breonna Taylor,” Wagner said. “I think it’s important to be on the ground when all of this is happening. I think any form of allyship is important.”
Thousands of protestors took to the streets the night of Wednesday, Sept. 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, combining at Second Avenue and East Fourteenth Street at around 9:50 p.m. Protests also took place in Louisville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and other cities across the country.
“I wanna see the end of white supremacy, but for that to happen I want people to understand that collectivist work is important,” Sahmoud said. “We need to be more united. That means small things like talking to each other and getting the word out.”
Email Matthew Fischetti, Rachel Cohen and Mei Lamison at [email protected]