Advocates want the NYPD to disband the unit that responds to protests


Activists Monday rallied outside City Hall to urge officials to shut down the controversial NYPD unit charged with responding to protests.

The group gathered on a cold and rainy morning after the City Council’s Public Safety Committee postponed a hearing on the department’s Strategic Response Group for the second time. More than 100 members of the public had also signed up to speak during the meeting, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been pushing for an oversight hearing for over a year.

Multiple officials said the reason for the delay is a number of lawsuits pending against the NYPD for its response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Several of those lawsuits are still unresolved, including Attorney General Letitia James’s suit accusing the department of excessive force and two class-action suits brought by NYCLU and the Legal Aid Society.

A City Council spokesperson said the hearing will take place in March and will not be delayed again.

“If I’ve got to stand out here in the rain to pressure certain electeds to hold a hearing to disband the notorious, violent SRG, then that’s what I’m going to do,” said Jon McFarlane with the advocacy group VOCAL-New York, flanked by about 40 people on the steps of City Hall.

The SRG launched as a counter-terrorism unit in 2015, but its responsibilities have grown over the years to include parades, shootings, bank robberies and “other significant incidents,” according to the NYPD website.

In more recent months, the unit has sparked criticism for its treatment of counter-protesters outside an abortion clinic in SoHo and a library in Jackson Heights that hosts a “Drag Story Hour” event. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban the unit from responding to nonviolent demonstrations.

“I think the public should have an opportunity to hear from people who have been brutalized, as well as hear from the NYPD why they think this is a justified unit,” Councilmember Sandy Nurse said in an interview. She said the SRG arrested her during a rally in Union Square in 2015.

Activists and progressive lawmakers have been asking for more oversight — or even the dissolution — of the police unit for years. The NYCLU launched a campaign to disband the team in 2021.

A police spokesperson referred questions to the city’s legal department, which declined to comment. But in a statement to Gothamist last year, the NYPD called the unit a “critical asset” for the department.


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