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Aug 3, 16

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Day 3 of the Abolition Square Occupation of NYC City Hall

Submitted to It’s Going Down
By Peter Soeller

Protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter affinity organization Millions March NYC have been holding down an occupation of City Hall to demand abolition of the NYPD and reparations funded through the expropriation of the NYPD budget since Monday, August 1st. Billed as #ShutDownCityHallNYC, the occupation features signatories from numerous organizations who have fought against police aggression since the dawn of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Day 3 hosted a broad and inclusive educational breakout sessions ranging from reparations policy ideas to sexual violence prevention. So far, there have been zero arrests as protestors have organized a series of actions, speak outs, and organizer trainings. The first day brought around 100 people and a plethora of media. As discussions with media and public outreach was underway, internally protestors debated the actions the NPYD would undertake once the park closed at midnight. The crowd continued to swell well into the night. At 11:00pm, the NYPD gave a dispersal order via LRAD telling those gathered that if they stayed in the park after midnight, they would be arrested. Unbeknownst to the cops, organizers were slowly funneling people out of the back of the park. By the time the NYPD realized what was going on, protesters had already reassembled and occupied an adjacent park a block from City Hall. A lone plaque stated that the park was open to the public for 24 hours.

The cops looked embarrassed and outraged that they’d been duped. Protesters explained the situation to the cops then gave them a dispersal order. The NYPD compiled and retreated, leaving a contingent of three foot patrols to watch sleeping protesters.

On Day 2, protesters awoke to the news the NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was resigning. The coalition hosted a Resignation Party at Assata Circle, the central meeting location of Abolition Square.

Overall, the day-to-day life of the occupation has seen minimal disruptions. Protesters consciously did not bring tents with the horrors of the Occupy Wall Street raid still fresh in the minds of many. The mobile encampment tactic has both advantages and disadvantages but helps protect protesters from arrest as well as allows for the occupation to dynamically adapt to changing circumstances. Despite being pushed out of Abolition Square every night, organizers remain committed to holding that space for as many hours of the day as possible. Protesters removed a Donald Trump supporter who attempted to take up Black space in the park. The Revolutionary Communist Party was present briefly but left after City Hall Park police told them they had to remove their table. The protesters represent a diverse assortment of left-wing activists, many espousing libertarian socialist, abolitionist, anti-colonial and black liberation ideologies with the park awash in similar symbolism.

As well as recognizable Black Lives Matter groups such as NYC Shut It Down and Why Accountability, the coalition was joined by groups such as the radical queer direct action group Bashback. This most recent formation of Bashback formed after an Orlando shooting massacre solidarity march that resulted in four arrests. Members of Bashback said they wanted to fight the narrative coming from white cis men that thanked the police for their increased presence in the West Village. “It was clear from that night that the police do not exist to protect queer and LGBT identified people, especially queer and transpeople of color.”

Other protesters expressed their joy at the merger of tactics between Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street to create a dynamic occupation that manages to outwit the police as well as build stronger organizational ties with the NYC activist community.

“I think its remarkable what this movement was able to accomplish in just a day,” one protester exclaimed. “This is probably one of the best organized public protests I’ve seen in a long time. There’ve been a lot of lessons learned regarding how to organize, the extent to which you have a platform but also the extent to which you collaborate. They’ve done a really good job keeping that balance of on the one hand having clear principles to get behind.”

Another protester explained the social struggle history of City Hall Park. “This place has been Abolition Square long, long, long before y’all named it Abolition Square. There used to be slave catchers that would come to City Hall and they’d often be met by free blacks who threw sticks and stones at them. In 1827, they held a big abolitionist celebration here. This place is historic for a multitude of reasons. We’re just standing on the shoulders of giants.”


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