Civil rights teams maintain city corridor to debate NYPD reforms round ‘decriminalizing’ protests

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On Wednesday, February 10th, civil rights groups, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the Bronx Defenders and the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted a town hall to “Redefine Community Security” to support reforms to the NYPD in New York City with a focus to be discussed on “decriminalizing protests”.

This event was part of a series of town halls and forums sponsored by the United for Police Reform (CPR) Communities. The goal of these meetings is to “engage the public and the communities hardest hit by the NYPD and create a real plan for change in New York City.”

The New York City police reform and reinvention plan requested by Governor Andrew Cuomo is due April 1. The CPR and its partner organizations host town halls and forums to learn about the community and safety needs of all New Yorkers. Upon completion of the series of events on February 25, CPR will report the results of these meetings and present them to the public and the New York City Council.

During Wednesday’s event, leaders and members of NYCLU, the Bronx Defenders, and the Center for Constitutional Rights shared personal experiences from protests in New York City and the surrounding counties over the past year.

The meeting took place in webinar format and included live polls, polls and a Q&A session to involve the audience directly in the conversation.

NYCLU members discussed the creation of their protest monitoring program, which was launched over the summer when protests surfaced across the country following the murder of George Floyd. NYCLU’s Isabelle Leyva said the goal of the surveillance program was “to protect the rights of New Yorkers by keeping track of police activities and collecting records of police behavior.”

A presentation by Caroline Waring showed footage of violent and biased police interactions with protesters during demonstrations last year to “show the systematic patterns used by the NYPD to suppress protests,” Waring said.

Daniel Lambright of the Bronx Defenders discussed the numerous protests filed over the past year, including Payne v De Blasio, People v City of New York, and Wood v City of New York. Lambright’s main view is that “the police use excessive force in policing protesters … taking revenge against protesters for their views.”

A representative from the Mott Haven Collective shared the goal of the newly formed 24-person collective, composed mostly of black and brown members, “who came together after being terrorized by the NYPD during the June 4th protest in the South Bronx “. On January 26, the group sent a list of demands to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer with a list of demands based on NYPD brutalization complaints from protesters who attended the demonstration. The demands include: “Compensation for the injured demonstrators, investment in the target group, assumption of responsibility for the attack, recognition of the attack as part of the system of racist repression, accounting for the damage caused and dismissal of those responsible.”

The meeting ended with a live Q&A session and poll asking each member of the audience, “What would you like to see in the New York City budget?” “What does security in the community mean to you?”; “What are your budget priorities?”

City Hall “Decriminalizing Protests” provided a space for people directly affected by police violence at protests, rallies and demonstrations while exercising their first adjustment rights to discuss a plan for change in New York City. Check online at For more information, dates and times of future town halls, please see this CPR-sponsored series, Redefining Community Safety.

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