If Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) attended his Midtown office last Friday, he might have seen a small but impassioned group protesting right outside the building’s lobby, bearing slogans like “CUOMO KILLS THE POOR – WE SAY NO MORE” and, “PROTESTS ARE NOT A CRIME – CUOMO MUST RESIGN.”
He also would have seen the same thing the previous Friday. And the Friday before that. And the Friday before that.
For over a month, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Bike Strike-Solidarity (BSS) have refused to give the Governor a moment of peace for his failures to help New York’s most marginalized communities. Every Friday, the two groups have organized outside of Cuomo’s Midtown office to accost him; the recent citywide protests against George Floyd’s murder have only emboldened their efforts.
According to BSS member Akiva Zamcheck, the protests have earned them the ire of the New York Police Department, especially after Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) signed an Executive Order banning all public demonstrations in early May. That hasn’t stopped them from showing up, however.
“They’ve been telling us over a month that we can’t protest here,” said Akiva. “The second week we were here, the cops charged us, threatening to handcuff us. But we didn’t give up then, and we won’t give up now.”
The protests first began in late April, and revolved around Cuomo’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When New York first entered the pandemic, Cuomo received glowing marks for his response, garnering the approval of 81 percent of New Yorkers (as reported by Newsweek in early May).
But not everyone was quite so enthralled. In particular, the group wanted to protest his decision to cut Medicaid when the crisis was at its peak, as well as his failure to address the spread of COVID-19 in ICE detention facilities.
As the weeks went on, the groups only found more reasons to protest the Governor. Last Friday’s rally focused on his inability to defuse the tension between the NYPD and the city-spanning police brutality protesters. Akiva contends that Cuomo has only exacerbated those tensions, citing his open contemplation of sending the National Guard to suppress the protests.
“It’s outrageous that the Mayor has actually had to fight with Cuomo against sending the National Guard to New York,” said Abbie Zamcheck, Akiva’s brother and fellow BSS member. “Before, Cuomo said that de Blasio needs to do more police reforms. But now he’s exposed that he’s just as brutal as any of them, despite the tepid lullabies that he’s been singing to millions of New Yorkers.”
But while their protests start off at Cuomo’s office, they certainly don’t end there. Ever since New Yorkers started rising up against police violence, the group has been organizing “bike caravans”, that have them bicycle in groups from rally to rally in order to lend their support.
“We’re trying to get more people to come together and organize,” said Akiva. “We’re also trying to highlight how elected leaders – Democratic politicians like Cuomo and de Blasio – are doing absolutely nothing for the people of New York. They’re only supporting large capital interests.”
Akiva says that the RUF and BSS intend to keep up this weekly routine for as long as he has to.
“I think we’re just going to keep protesting until we see real systemic change, or until Cuomo resigns,” he said.