Radical Rally Argues To Abolish NYPD, Make CUNY Free


Several dozen students and radical leftists gathered on the front steps of the city’s Department of Education building, 52 Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan on Friday demanding the abolishment of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), a no fare subway system and a free and fully funder City Univerity of Nw York (CUNY) among things.

The protest, called “Students Speak Out: Cops out of Our Schools and Subways,” ran from 9-11 a.m. and preceded a larger series of protests at Grand Central Station and in MTA train stations called “F*** the Police III” that happened later in the day, organized by the different groups.

The People’s Cultural Plan is a group that argues for the rights of “cultural and artistic” workers. Free CUNY is a group of students and professors who want a completely free city college system.

Their banners, signs and social media outreach listed five central goals that besides the aforementioned goals, also included abolishing educational apartheid and no cops or military recruiters at CUNY  schools.

Efforts to get CUNY to be fully funded by the state government and, in turn, tuition-free, have been underway for several years, in most cases by way of protests and rallies. 

The demand of “cops out of CUNY” was exacerbated, however, after two incidents during a protest at a December CUNY Board of Trustees meeting out of Baruch College, in which John Jay College adjunct professor Sami Disu fell on the ground while being escorted from the meeting by campus security. 

Many protestors from the Free CUNY side said this was a result of Disu being shoved, but campus police said he tripped. 

The second incident occurred a few minutes later after the public, including the protestors, were removed from the meeting room. Brooklyn College student Hailey Lam was detained by security in a classroom and threatened with arrest for ignoring instructions to remain quiet.

Protestors at the Board of Education Building in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Amanda Salazar

Other demands from the protestors that centered around abolishing or retracting police presence were a response to police violence towards people of color and to the recent increase of police officers in the subways, an effort aimed at cracking down on fare beating.

Despite this clear list, the speakers touched on unrelated topics, such as the anti-literacy laws that once kept American slaves from getting an education and the country’s treatment of native tribes.

The rally was opened up by a Free CUNY member, Alexandra, who led the group’s chant of their “territorial acknowledgment,” that more or less acknowledged the indigenous people that used to live on Manhattan.

“We begin by acknowledging that we are standing on the homeland of the Lenape, which, and always has been, a place of the indigenous movement,” the protestors chanted back to her. “Our actions, at their most fundamental level, stand in solidarity with the Lenape and all indigenous peoples, here and beyond, whose land was stolen to create settler states, and who continue to live under siege, surveillance, and colonial structural violence on their own occupied land.”

“Students Speak Out” was also attended and supported by other organizations, including Teens Take Charge — which consisted of high school students skipping school — and the Youth Activists – Youth Allies Network.

These groups spoke about segregated high schools, military recruiters in public schools and a “school to prison pipeline.”

“In the conversation surrounding integration, myself and many other students have seen two very distinct sides,” said Teens Take Charge representative Melody Moulton. “On one side, there are those that insist on keeping screens and tests such as the SHSAT in place because they are benefitting from them. On the other side, students of color, who make up over 70% of the New York City public high school system, are demanding integration happen now, because they are being wholly disadvantaged and need change to experience an equitable quality of education.”

Members of the different groups walked around passing out pamphlets and papers — a zine from the co-organizers of the rally with their demands, a flyer from the People’s Power Assemblies NYC that explains why police and prisons should be abolished, a Communist newspaper called The Challenge with the bolded front-page headline, “Organize Against Racist Killer Cops.”