ITHACA, N.Y. –– The weekly Sunday protests have continued in downtown Ithaca for more than five months now, and for the past few weeks have refocused their attentions on the Ithaca Police Department, calling for the agency to be defunded and for officers to “quit their jobs.”
Chants of “IPD, you fucked up” and “Black Lives Matter” echoed through the streets Sunday afternoon as protesters marched to police headquarters after a short gathering on the Commons. The group that gathered to protest and march has held steady in recent weeks at around 30 people.
Once in front of police HQ, speakers focused on discussing the usefulness of armed police officers as a means of preventing crime, which has been trending upwards since the pandemic began.
One protester, Ray from the Ithaca Pantheras group, alluded to a conversation the group’s leadership had with Cornell University Police Chief David Honan, who said that despite carrying a gun during his decades long career, he has never discharged his weapon. According to Ray, Honan said that police must remain armed in case a dangerous situation arises.
“You don’t need it later on, that’s just a sales pitch,” Ray said. “That’s how this particularly awful company stays in business –– they sell what could happen.”
They continued, saying that weapons in the hands of law enforcement only serve to worsen the police’s relationship with the public, not deter crime.
In addition to Ray, protester Genevieve Rand spoke about how IPD spends its money –– referring specifically to its fleet of police vehicles parked in the lot across from headquarters during the demonstration.
“They have no ability whatsoever to prevent it before it happens,” Rand said. “If we’re actually trying to stop crime, reacting to it after it happens isn’t going to stop it. Something we have not tried on a large scale is, say, getting rid of all those cars and taking that money and put it towards feeding people.”
The other main conversation point during this weekend’s protest was the establishment of a “community watch” that hopes to prevent police brutality or unfair treatment at the hands of officers. Members of police abolitionist groups such as the Pantheras have began in recent weeks keeping a close eye on police interactions, filming law enforcement approaching subjects and verbally checking in with potential arrestees to gauge their comfort and safety.
“One of the things we’re trying to put in place is deterring this shit. Having people actually equipped to deal with mental health calls, having people who actually know the people being harassed to make sure that they’re good,” Ray from the Pantheras said. “Because at the end of the day these cops don’t know who you are and they could give a fuck less.”
Protesters remained outside of IPD for just under an hour, blocking traffic on Clinton Street during that time. Last week, marchers stood outside the headquarters for around 40 minutes, vacating due to an extreme weather warning.
Sunday’s action ended with the group present hanging posters on the front entrance of the police building targeting Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello, who has been the subject of scrutiny after an incident outside of a Congressman Tom Reed campaign event ended in the arrest of a protester.
Weekly protests do not show any signs of slowing or stopping, and it was reiterated multiple times Sunday afternoon that cold and snow will not prevent gathering in some way, shape or form.