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Youth activists demand cut to police budget

Call for $120 million cut, funds reinvested in anti-violence work

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Youth activists demand cut to police budget
Wahaaj Farah, 17, speaks during a rally at City Hall. PHOTO: MORGAN C. MULLINGS

On Saturday, June 26, activists from the Youth Justice and Power Union gathered at City Hall to demand a $120 million cut from the police budget and a cancellation of the new class of 250 police officers. 

The crowd of high school students and YJPU leaders held up signs featuring acting Mayor Kim Janey’s face. They took turns criticizing her budget and asking for more cuts before Wednesday’s City Council vote.

Arlyn Dionisio, a youth organizer with YJPU, said the city should invest funds currently allocated for police into more youth jobs.

“If we just invested the money and put the time into these communities like we do the suburbs, we would be able to be more successful,” Dionisio told the Banner. “We would be seeing more youth talent and new power come out of Black and brown communities.”

Dionisio said she felt that in some ways, the youth are properly represented by their City Council members and the mayor, but in other ways, they need more. She got involved with YJPU when she was a teenager, like many of the protesters, and now leads some of their efforts.

“I feel like having a Black woman as the mayor is only the first step,” Dionisio said.

While she’s happy to see representation, she wants more people in government that reflect the voice of the people. “Not just corporations, and the police, money, speaking in their ear,” she said.

The mayor’s resubmitted budget includes expanding the police force with 30 new officers and 20 new cadets. The administration says this is to accommodate for a proposed $21 million reduction, or 33%, of the overtime budget. Youth activists are calling for a 30% overall cut, not just to overtime, to reinvest in violence prevention initiatives.

The Janey administration also expanded on its original proposal for the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, giving the new office $1.3 million to build its staff.

“Really what she’s trying to do is add more police over time, which will end up costing the people of Boston more money in the long run,” Dionisio said.

The students who gave speeches in front of City Hall were passionate and specific about their demands.

“We must call out Mayor Kim Janey and her administration,” said Wahaaj Farah, 17.

“Mayor Kim Janey is spending [$1 million] on police training,” Farah said. “It is up to us as citizens of this city to speak up.”

Another 17-year-old, Jannat Hasan, explained why YJPU decided to make these demands of the mayor.

“Black and brown communities have been silenced, have been neglected for years,” Hasan said.

“We want the police to step out of our city,” she continued.

Reinvesting, to the demonstrators, means focusing more on public health and education, and especially on youth jobs, rather than more police.

Incarceration activist Andrea James, known in Boston for founding Families for Justice as Healing, showed up in support of the protesters.

“Let’s put a stop to all of this and put that money back into our communities,” James said to the small crowd. “When you talk about investing more in cops, that’s the entrance, that’s the door to incarceration for our families.”

The City Council held its last public hearing on Janey’s resubmitted budget on Monday and will hold a vote on Wednesday. If the majority vote against the budget, the city will move into a 1/12th budget, where each month, the city uses 1/12 of the previous fiscal year’s budget.

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