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NYC Subway Dancers and Musicians Held a Block Party to Protest Police Hires

A councilmember is trying to add 1,000 new cops to NYC streets, and these activists are not having it.

Photo by Erik Mc Gregor (erikrivas@hotmail.com). Courtesy of Safety Beyond Policing.

Last week, New Yorkers congregated in front of the NYPD headquarters and hosted a music and dance party to protest City Council’s $100 million effort to add 1,000 new cops to New York City streets. The demonstration was as much a display of resistance to overpolicing as it was a celebration of New York City neighborhoods that have struggled to survive in the face of aggressive law enforcement tactics. Musicians like Rebel Diaz took the stage with songs that venerated the lost lives of Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd. And New York’s celebrated W.A.F.F.L.E subway dancers, who were the subject of a recent documentary called Litefeet, staged exuberant dance performances, in a symbolic act of defiance to police criminalization of their art.


The evening was a boisterous rebuke to NYPD’s “Broken Windows” method of law enforcement, which is based on a much-maligned social science theory that policing smaller, more visible crimes—like grafitti, vandalism, and, yup, subway dancing—would help prevent the perpetration of more serious crimes, like murder. The Broken Windows theory has a lot of holes in it, many of them poked by researchers who say it doesn’t work and by activists who say it unduly criminalizes youth in low-income neighborhoods. The subway dancers, in particular, have been subject to severe repurcussions for practicing a form of performance that has become emblematic of New York’s street culture.

The party was organized by Safety Beyond Policing, a community initiative that aims to promote safer neighborhoods through the elimination of poverty rather than the expansion of police ranks.

“Community Policing is a rebranding of Broken Windows policing currently being propped up by members of City Council and Speaker Mark-Viverito who promote the idea that we need 1,000 new cops – even when people in the communities she’s supposed to represent are suffering,” said Josmar Trujillo, an activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows, in a press release. “Policing is experienced as surveillance, racial profiling and police brutality throughout New York City. More police means more of the same – is that what she wants to represent?”

Online, organizers and supporters are rallying around the hashtag #NoNewNYPD to oppose the addition of 1,000 new cops.

“My people, community policing is not a solution!!!!!” tweeted Opal Tometi, a national organizer with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “Stop promoting this idea. DOJ got it wrong. It's killing our folk. #NoNewNYPD”.

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