A group of protestors known as “Decolonize This Place” took to the streets of New York City on Friday to speak out against the MTA’s plan to add 500 new police officers to the NYC subway system. The additional police measures come at a moment when tensions from incidents of police brutality are at an all-time high. One station wall was tagged with the demand: “Cops out.” Meanwhile, some card readers at turnstiles were filled with glue, leaving people unable to pay their fares.
According to ABC 7 New York, emergency exits at certain Upper West Side stations were chained open and liquid was sprayed on OMNY readers, MTA’s new contactless fare payment system. The group also revealed oversized banners in two locations across the city with a straightforward message: “Fuck your $2.75 fare. Strike today.”
So, why exactly are these protestors out here and what do they hope to gain? Protestors say their end goals are to eliminate the strong police presence in the subway system and provide free public transit for all. In a video shared on Twitter, the group invited people to join their effort.
“We encourage you to link up with your friends, your family, and think of the ways you can move in affinity to build and fuck shit up on J31 all day long,” the masked protesters said, referring to the code name for Friday’s protest, which falls on January 31. “The mood for J31 is simple: Fuck your $2.75. No cops in the MTA. Free transit. No harassment, period, and full accessibility. We hope that you come through and move with us on J31.”
Decolonize This Place began organizing similar protests after the violent treatment of 15-year-old Benjamin Marshall in Downtown Brooklyn was caught on camera last year. The officer in that case was ultimately placed on desk duty while an investigation takes place. Marshall and his family have since filed a lawsuit against the city. Previous protests have taken place in Brooklyn and Harlem, but this marks the group’s first time taking Manhattan by storm.
The action against over-policing comes after severe reports of police targeting people of color for fare evasions. Earlier in January, New York Attorney General Letitia James launched an investigation into the NYPD to see if certain racial demographics were being targeted over others. In November, a viral video showed officers taking a churro cart away from a woman before escorting her to a private area, where she reports they became aggressive with her.
More than 2,500 police officers currently patrol New York City’s subway, according to The New York Times. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to add 500 officers at an estimated cost of $50 million a year isn’t sitting well with many free transit and anti-police brutality activists who argue that the last thing the failing subway system needs is more cops. The Times reports that the total number of major felonies within the system decreased in 2019 from the year before, according to police statistics.
Refinery29 has reached out to Decolonize This Place for comment.