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Syracuse protesters continue demand for police reform: redirect funds, renegotiate union contract

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Protester outside Syracuse City Hall on Monday.

Protesters are continuing to demand that Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh make changes to the city’s police department. It’s been more than a month since protests against police brutality started locally, following the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests. Stakeholders and protesters have a list of nine demands called “The People’s Agenda,” that they want the city to accept. 

A small group of protesters were outside Syracuse City Hall this week to put as much pressure on elected officials as possible.

“By us being out here and us being more aggressive, I think that’s a step up in the escalation department,” Hasahn Bloodworth, one of the cofounders of Rebirth SYR, said. The group grew out of Last Chance for Change, which spent 40 days protesting across the city.

Credit Rebirth SYR Facebook
Rebirth SYR Facebook
"The People's Agenda."

“The People’s Agenda” calls for more action on redirecting funding away from the Syracuse Police Department and renegotiating the police union contract, which is currently heading to arbitration. Some of the demands, including the use of force policy, body cameras and demilitarization of police, Mayor Walsh has either already addressed with an executive order of 16 reforms last month, or are still ongoing, like the call to remove school resource officers. A clip from a meeting earlier this month about the agenda, featuring Yusuf Abdul-Qadir with the NYCLU, talking to Walsh about how the vast majority of Syracuse police officers don't live in the city, went viral with millions of views online.

“You’re sending money out of Syracuse, and not just for 30 years, for the rest of their life, because their pensions, their health insurance, their families,” Abdul-Qadir said. “We are funding for other people’s communities to have the promise of the American dream, while we are denying it in our community.”

Mered Billue of Rebirth SYR said the clip of Abdul-Qadir put Syracuse in the spotlight and Billue's group is in this for the long haul. He said they want to start registering young Black people to vote.

“We want to start building political power in our community and we want to start building, eventually, an independent voting block that address issues in our community,” Billue said.

A spokesperson from the mayor said Walsh will share the timeline to address protesters' demands with the group’s representatives on Thursday. Another rally is being planned at City Hall, also on Thursday.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.