On September 19, the Citywide Leadership Committee (CLC) granted priority status to the #DefundNYPD campaign, a project led by members of the Racial Justice Working Group (RJWG). The group had assembled shortly after the murder of George Floyd with the goal of cutting the NYPD budget in the citywide budget vote for the 2021 fiscal year.
On June 30, the Defund campaign led a coalition of abolitionist groups in a mass march to City Hall, calling on the City Council to cut the NYPD budget in half and reinvest in essential community services (mental health care, fully funding public schools, etc.). The City Council ultimately engaged in deceptive budgeting maneuvers that are unlikely to lessen the actual police presence in NYC, but which they purported removed one billion dollars from the NYPD budget.
Planning for a long fight
In the months since that inadequate budget vote, members of the Defund Campaign have been busy building infrastructure for the long battle ahead:
“First, we have to get people out, then we need to get people super organized on the ground, then we can think about intervening more strategically,” Defund Steering Committee member Garon Scott explained. “We’re all really conscious that we have to develop leaders from membership and that it’s not sustainable for a small group of people to run a campaign forever.”
The campaign is split into various subcommittees focused on action planning, communications and visibility, research, political education, administration, and coalition building. The amount of support from DSA members and beyond has been significant, with thousands of volunteers signed up to receive updates.
“There are so many people who want to come out and be in the streets,” Garon continued. “Which is really encouraging, but also challenging because it’s a new direction for DSA. Although people are afraid of the cops, they are newly willing to confront them.”
Gaining comrades beyond the DSA
According to Garon, the name recognition of DSA also plays a significant role in the campaign’s ability to garner enthusiasm. In the past few weeks, the campaign has been mobilizing people in response to the Grand Jury’s failure to convict any of Breonna Taylor’s murderers. Members are showing up to marches in solidarity or leading their own, like the one to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s house. The campaign has also been tabling across the city and leading teach-ins, either virtually or in an outdoor setting.
The group is actively working to build their coalition, with another mass march coming up on October 17th at 2pm in Washington Square Park. The Defund Steering Committee members emphasize that the role of their campaign is one of foundational support to uplift BIPOC voices, while providing a socialist vision for the future.