Open Letter from Arts and Cultural Workers of NYC,
Demanding the Defunding of the Police and Investment in BIPOC Communities
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill de Blasio
Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
District Attorney Darcel Denise Clark
District Attorney Melinda Katz
District Attorney Michael McMahon
June 3rd, 2020
To the aforementioned:
As New York residents as well as artists, art writers, arts administrators, curators, and cultural workers, we are outraged not only at the last week of police brutality in response to protests, but also the centuries of systemic murder and oppression of our communities from overfunded and increasingly militarized police.
Last April, Mayor de Blasio proposed major budget cuts for the Fiscal Year 2021, especially to the arts, education, and youth programs, while refusing to slash the NYPD budget by any significant margin. We urge you to consider the ethical and equal reallocation of the NYC expense budget, away from the NYPD, and towards social and civic services and education programs, effective at the beginning of FY21, July 1st 2020.
We write in remembrance of Eric and Erica Garner. We write in remembrance of George Floyd. We write in remembrance of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and the millions of other Black women, men, queer, and trans people who, since the founding of this nation, have suffered systemic violence at the hands of police brutality. We write with our Black and brown communities in mind, who have suffered systemic underinvestment and oppression that have resulted in an overwhelming and disproportionate number of deaths from COVID-19.
In a time when it has become clearer and clearer that your policies and the policies of your predecessors have failed us, consistently compromising the safety and health of Black and brown people, we write to make a plea for you to act in solidarity with the ongoing Black and brown movements around the nation. As artists and arts workers, we have the responsibility of imagining and manifesting new and better worlds. In line with this work, we demand the immediate decrease of police presence in response to the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and subsequent Divestment from the Police and Investment in Black Communities.
Following the work of the national Movement for Black Lives, we repeat and unite with the following specific demands:
Respect the Rights of Protestors
We demand that no harm come to protestors. Violations of property should never be equated with the violation of human life and integrity. End the curfew and scale back police presence. Immediately ban the use of tear gas, a chemical weapon banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.
Limit the spread of COVID-19, which your officers have not done enough to address. Your officers have not worn masks, and the doubling of police presence means the doubling of the chance of COVID spread not only in our communities, but among the police force itself. Reallocate the money you are using to mobilize the police toward obtaining and distributing PPE and other medical equipment for hospitals and our communities.
End the War Against Black People
We call for not just individual accountability of officers after a murder, but entire police departments. We demand an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of our people.
Suspend the use of administrative leave for cops under investigation. Withhold pensions and don’t rehire cops involved in excessive force. Require cops to be liable for misconduct and settlements. Withdraw participation in police militarization programs.
Hold the NYPD immediately accountable by external community reviews. The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us, from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.
Immediate Relief for Our Communities
We demand rent cancellation, mortgage cancellation, a moratorium on utility and water shutoffs, and a cancellation of student, medical, and other forms of debt. We demand long-term economic solutions like a Universal Basic Income and Universal Healthcare in order to address the immediate crisis and pave the way for a just recovery that doesn’t prioritize corporations and leave our communities behind. Support the families and the lives of those we have lost and those struggling to survive now.
We, the co-signers of this letter, stand with protesters around the city and nation in demanding deep, systemic change for our communities’ fundamental rights to life. As we work in our practices to continue imagining a more just and equal world, we acknowledge the work that others have done throughout the centuries of our oppression. We amplify the calls for defunding the police and investing in our communities that now form the policy line of the overwhelming majority of us, your constituents.
We are of and for the people. We are only few of many who have no choice but to demand a better future. We will no longer be brushed aside.
This letter has now been signed by arts workers across New York City.
To add your name, sign here.