New Haven youth organizers march against police violence. Photo courtesy of Citywide Youth Coalition. Used with permission.
As police violence continues unaddressed in New Haven, Connecticut, Democrat Mayor Justin Elicker has continued a campaign of silence and dismissal. The Citywide Youth Coalition of New Haven has been extremely active while the city has been experiencing a period of community outrage after the death of George Floyd sparked police brutality protests across the nation. Organizations in the area such as the CT Bail Fund, Black Lives Matter, The Party for Socialism and Liberation, Justice for Jayson, the Semilla Collective, the Malik Organization, and the CWYC have all been working to carry the cry for justice far and wide.
While Elicker was in attendance at different actions across New Haven, he has made his postion clear that he is not willing to listen to the demands of constituents within the city.
Notably, Justin Elicker has been ignoring and dismissing the youth leadership that is speaking out. At a recent Defund the Police protest organized by the coalition, a crowd of 30 expressed their concerns. As Jeremy Cajigas of the CWYC told Liberation News, “I think the biggest promise that he has broken… is saying that he was willing to work with community leaders and organizers to move this city forward.” This sentiment hit home as Elicker stood his ground against the protestors, offering only excuses for the violence and red tape when alternate programs were offered.
Organizers raised a wide breadth of issues, such as the recent criminalization of all-terrain vehicles, armed police presence in public schools under the guise of “school resource officers,” the triple police occupation of the city by New Haven, Hamden and Yale police, defunding of the police, the Mayor’s lack of reliability, and the police union.
On the ATV issue, Elicker tried to claim that people could not go to jail for an ATV fine. Community members responded with incredulity at this out-of-touch comment, with an organizer asking what the mayor thinks happens to people who can’t pay fines. All the concerns were ultimately dismissed by the Mayor as either extraneous concerns or unrealistic ideas. Even after coalition members revised their demand to defund the police by only $6 million, this still seemed too much. This money could be reallocated, the CWYC explained, to enable the school system to have two full time social workers and a nurse available to all publicly schooled students. Mayor Elicker dismissed this idea saying that he was never in support of defunding police.
On the night of May 31, after a Black Lives Matter protest drew hundreds into the streets, the chanting peaceful crowd took to the highway and then made their way down to the New Haven Police Precinct. Mayor Elicker had tweeted that he was at the station, but when community members tried to enter to talk with him, they were forcibly removed. A SWAT line was set up and the crowd stood for more than six hours, calling for the Mayor to come down and talk to his constituents. Violence erupted at one point when the police pepper sprayed the crowd waiting on the steps for the Mayor, hitting multiple community members and a Hamden city councilman, who had come to try and negotiate with the police on the crowd’s behalf.
There is a stark difference between the Mayor as seen in front of the camera and when no one is watching. At both the protests outside the New Haven precinct and the first protest outside his home earlier in the year, Elicker did nothing to engage with the people demanding his attention. When confronted by the CWYC later, outside his home with a New Haven Independent reporter present, he appeared to be a cordial and concerned public figure engaging with his constituents. As Elicker ignores this city’s youth, he continues to show New Haven that he only shows up and “cares” when there is a camera to document his presence or an affluent neighbor complaining about the noise next door.
Elicker has a track record of broken promises and false hope when dealing with community organizers. Despite his supposed acknowledgement of the problem of police violence in the city, the mayor’s proposed budget for this year gave $11 million for public health — in a pandemic — and $43 million for policing, with another $39 million set aside for police and firefighter pensions.
“[When he met with] key lead organizers to have an accountability conversation [regarding] his actions and the violence the community experienced the day of the protest at the hands of the police… we walked away demanding that he issue a public apology since he publicly sided with the police without calling out their violent acts,” said Cajigas. “We gave him a deadline for the apology, which was June 5th, and we never received a public apology from him.”
Elicker’s disregard for the youth voices of CWYC has been especially disappointing, Cajigas said, as the youth “felt Elicker was a sense of hope for new politics in the city” as “he ran on such a proressive platform. But it is clear he is not the progressive they thought he was.”
One thing is clear, the youth voices of New Haven are making themselves heard and not planning to stop. New Haven’s anti-racist movements have been successful in instituting a civilian review board, coordinating community-led mutual aid initiatives and pushing back against ICE terror. Sooner or later Mayor Elicker will have to pay attention.
Citywide Youth Coalition Demands
1 – We Demand the immediate divestment of School Resource Officers within New Haven Public Schools. This divestment and termination of contracts should be followed through with an investment in school counselors.
2 – We Demand the immediate divestment of the New Haven Police Department. Reducing the proposed NHPD budget from $43 Million to $10 Million and depositing those extra $33 Million in our Public Education System.
3 – We Demand that $20 Million Dollars be taken out of the proposed budget for NHPD pensions and be allocated to create Affordable Public Housing.
4 – We Demand the end to the triple occupation of the New Haven community Performed by NHPD,YPD, and HPD
5 – We Demand that New Haven Alders stop being complacent in entering more Yale Police Department Police officers into the New Haven Community
6 – We Demand that every officer within the state of Connecticut that has been involved in the killing or beating of a Civilian be prosecuted with the full weight of the law.
7 – We Demand that the people who are elected to the Civilian review board are viable people elected by the community .
8 – We Demand the Immediate end to police brutality within our City,State, and Country.