August 5, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – A group of about 75 food service workers and their supporters rallied on the streets of Lower Manhattan on Tuesday night to protest what many consider wrong-headed policing policies, typified by Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to add 1,300 new cops to the ranks of the NYPD in 2016.
The spirited demonstration, conducted as part of the Restaurant Opportunities Center’s (ROC) nationwide #SafetyIs campaign, kicked off in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building at 201 Varick Street, before moving to nearby Father Demo Square where local cops where also holding National Night Out festivities at Bleecker and Carmine streets.
Demonstrators angry about the growing list of black and minority people killed while in police custody, jeered the City of New York’s decision to spend a reported $170 million on still more cops, saying that the money could be better spent on youth employment opportunities and social workers for impoverished communities.
Prabhu Sigamani, Research & Policy coordinator for the Restaurant Opportunities Center, said that true public safety involves economic justice and livable wages, as well as an end to racial and gender discrimination.
“Safety is important to all workers, and it just doesn't happen on the streets,” Sigamani told LaborPress.
In a statement ahead of Tuesday night’s demonstration, Lauren Jacobs, national organizing director for ROC-United, said, “We believe that safety has to include a work environment that fosters dignity and respect through family-sustaining wages, basic benefits like paid sick days, and a commitment to prevent harassment and discrimination.”
In addition to “bosses trying to screw workers by cutting salaries and cutting benefits,” Virtilio Aran, an organizer with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), said that workers everywhere should also be engaged in the fight for social justice.
“All workers are in the same struggle,” Aran said.
Some demonstrators directly confronted cops at Father Demo Square, likening the NYPD to the KKK, and ridiculed progressive City Council members including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Vanessa Gibson and Jumaane Williams as “sell-outs” for supporting the hiring of more cops.
“I and other people of color should feel safe around cops, however, that is not the reality,” said ROC member Hector Caneos. “Safety is when the law serves all people, not just some of the people."