* Mr. Ghebreghiorgis is referring to Thursday, June 11th which marks one week of the protest at which he was arrested.
THE BRONX, NY — June 13, 2020 — Hundreds of my peers were trapped by police officers and physically unable to leave before NYC’s 8 PM curfew. Police violence against the protesters was severe: bodies were thrown onto the ground by officers wearing riot gear; police bicycles were used as ramming weapons; and pepper spray was shot into protesters’ faces. The NYPD arrested hundreds of us for “breaking [a] curfew” that was broken because of their presence. It was my first time being arrested – I didn’t think the night would end the way it did – and I ended up being detained for over 19 hours without food or a phone call and transported to two other boroughs (Queens and Brooklyn). The police department lied to my family about my location when they called trying to find me.
The murder of George Floyd has been the impetus for much of the protests, as millions have taken to the streets around the world in solidarity for Black Lives Matter. After more videos detailing police brutality surfaced, calls to defund the police followed. Divesting money from local and state police budgets and reinvesting it into communities, mental health services, and social service programs has always been part of my platform. What it means to “defund the police” is to be clear about, and with exact budgetary stipulations, how we can address needs and conflict without the threat of psychological/physical harm and/or incarceration. We need to change our entire approach instead of throwing the same reforms at the wall over and over. For this reason, I’m supporting the call to defund the New York Police Department. The NYPD has a $6 billion annual budget, and a minimum of $1 billion of that budget needs to go to social services to benefit, not hurt, us. NYC already has a shortfall of $9 billion due to COVID-19 for the budget currently in process. We cannot ideologically or financially support the militarization of the NYPD. We cannot pay for riot suits and war technology that harm us while teachers are paying for school supplies out of their own pockets, children are still hungry, and other important services continue to be cut.
We need to diminish the political power of policing. It’s happening already: the Minneapolis City Council has committed to dismantling their police department and starting over. The poverty-stricken city of Camden, New Jersey did the same in 2013, and it resulted in less crime, less police brutality, and a city on the rise. Spending more money for police reforms hasn’t worked. We need to #DefundNYPD.
If you want to know more about defunding the police, click here.
Please be safe and, also, please keep protesting. WE are at a point of history in which change is possible. Let’s make it happen.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Ghebreghiorgis was a candidate vying to represent Congressional District 16. On June 1st he suspended his effort for elected office.