Ramón Frisneda / Courtesy El Diario

Organizations such as La Colmena joined in the demand to divert $1 billion from the NYPD to invest in communities.

Read the original story in Spanish at El Diario
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

Tensions rose in the early hours of the day of Tuesday, when the city was due to vote on the next fiscal year’s final budget as hundreds of protestors camped in front of City Hall, clashing with police officers. 

Last week, demonstrators — demanding the city cut $1 billion from the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) $6 billion budget — set up a camp at City Hall similar to the one created during Occupy Wall Street, which remained in Zucotti Park for two months in 2011.

The City Hall demonstrators are largely part of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, many of whom who have taken to the streets since May to protest police brutality and the death of George Floyd. El Diario went to the camp and was able to verify that the massive demonstration was composed of people of all races and ages, including activists representing immigrant rights groups. They joined in to demand that City Hall refrain from cutting funding for their organizations in response to the budget crisis caused by the drastic drop in tax revenue due to the coronavirus.

“We decided to join this protest because, in a few days, our center – like the other four day laborer centers – is at risk of losing the funds we need to keep our doors open to offer community services. That is going to affect hundreds of immigrant workers,” said Judith Prado, coordinator at the youth program run by La Colmena, an organization supporting day laborers, housekeepers and other low-income immigrant workers on Staten Island.

Prado explained that many people already enduring financial difficulties due to the pandemic would be further affected if the city cuts their funds. “With that money, we are able to find jobs with a dignified pay for immigrants, and offer them safety training and other services that allow them to obtain jobs in New York requiring OSHA certificates,” said the activist, who is from Mexico.  

At the camp, where some remained for several days, the demonstrators created systems for a food, water, clothing and bed sheet supply system, managed by a volunteer brigade whose job is to guarantee that anyone wishing to join the demonstration can do so regardless of their need, or specific opinion on how the police funding should be used.

Some 30 members of La Colmena were at the City Hall encampment Tuesday. Other immigrant rights groups have also attended, including NICE, Northern Manhattan and Catholic Charities. “We are all here to defend our funds, which could be saved if they come from the billion dollars that they would cut from the police,” said Prado.

Since then, critics of the city budget, which passed early Wednesday, say it did not go far enough to slash NYPD funding or bolster social services for immigrants and other New Yorkers.