Democratic Socialists Bring NYPD Budget Fight to Lawmakers’ Doorsteps

Jabari Brisport, an out gay State Senate hopeful in the June 23 Democratic primary, with a contingent of Democratic Socialists demonstrating outside Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo's home in Brooklyn on June 18.
Twitter/ @nycDSA

After members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), pressing their demands for defunding of the NYPD, descended on the homes of two lawmakers — Daniel Dromm, an out gay city councilmember from Queens, and his Brooklyn colleague Laurie Cumbo — both lawmakers voiced criticism of the demonstrations and allies rushed to Dromm’s corner, even some who have employed similar protest tactics in the past.

One or two dozen DSA members were seen rallying outside Dromm’s home June 18 in a demonstration during which they asked him to trim the NYPD’s budget in half, from $6 billion to $3 billion. Dromm, who holds the powerful role of finance chair on the Council, reacted with fury, accusing two of those protesters of taking things a step too far.

Allies of out gay Queens lawmaker condemn actions honed in the crucible of LGBTQ activism

“I’m calling on @AOC to condemn this action,” Dromm said in a tweet. “Totally inappropriate to do this outside my home. As they screamed, ‘Daniel, you either come down or we’ll come up’ two @nycDSA members entered my building & began pounding on my apt. door demanding to be let in. Porter threw them out.”

Dromm, clearly resentful that his progressive credentials were being challenged, asked one DSA member, “Are you one of those Brooklyn Trust Fund babies?”

That prompted Twitter user Michael Latin to retweet a video showing Dromm saying that he takes “umbrage at being labeled anti-cop. I come from a cop family. My uncle was a sergeant in the department, my grandfather was a lieutenant in the department…”

Over in Brooklyn, DSA members led by out gay State Senate hopeful Jabari Brisport held a demonstration on the street outside the home of Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, against whom Brisport had mounted a Green Party/ Socialist Party challenge in 2017. Brisport and DSA members called on Cumbo to similarly commit to cutting $3 billion from the NYPD and shift that money into housing, education, and healthcare.

She did not answer, so they left a note on her door signed by the NYC DSA’s Racial Justice Working Group.

Cumbo was also unhappy with the demonstration, writing in a tweet, “@JabariBrisport that’s what we doing? As the Black Mother of a 2 yr-old son you come to my home again or anyplace where I am with my son with a bullhorn & you too will be met with a group of protesters & they won’t be gentrifiers.”

Cumbo then accused Brisport, who could make history by becoming the first out gay Black member of the State Legislature in the race to succeed retiring Brooklyn Senator Velmanette Montgomery, of using his demonstration for political gain, writing, “Don’t use the BLM Movement as a publicity stunt for your upcoming election.”

“Oh wonderful, so glad we got in touch,” Brisport tweeted in response. “As you saw in the video, this was a peaceful rally that started with a thank you and ended with an invitation. We left the following letter at your door. Please peruse and sign at your leisure.”

Cumbo also took a particularly tough poke at Brisport, writing, “A real Black Man from Brooklyn would never roll up at a Black woman’s home with her child with a bullhorn.”

It was unclear whether Cumbo was questioning Brisport’s racial authenticity, his masculinity, or his “Brooklynness” — or some combination of the three.

Daniel Dromm, the out gay chair of the City Council Finance Committee, was also a target of protest on Thursday evening, at his Queens home.New York City Council/ William Alatriste

As Dromm and Cumbo voiced their unhappiness about the protests targeting them, political figures from across the five boroughs heaped praise on Dromm in a clear show of force to defend the longtime Queens political leader. Among many who put out tweets praising Dromm included Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Mark Treyger of Brooklyn and Mark Levine of Manhattan, out gay 2021 Queens City Council candidate Rod Townsend, and out gay District Leader John Blasco, who works for out gay Speaker Corey Johnson.

Johnson also tweeted on the same night, writing, “Danny is a trailblazer, a hero to so many, and has been a tireless leader on the front lines for social and racial justice for decades. He is a role model and a gem.”

However, neither Johnson nor many others in the LGBTQ community are strangers to mounting aggressive protests outside of the homes of elected leaders. When Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger voted against marriage equality in 2009, Gay City News reported that Johnson and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club president Allen Roskoff went to Kruger’s home and shouted about the hypocrisy of his vote given that he was a closeted gay man.

Among numerous other examples of LGBTQ and allied protesters bring their complaints directly to the homes of legislators, in 1991 members of ACT UP placed a giant condom over North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms’ home in response to his homophobia and abhorrent actions against HIV/ AIDS funding.

Five years later, protesters turned up in Brooklyn outside the Prospect Park West apartment building of then-Representative Charles Schumer to protest his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In a more recent example, Gays Against Guns went to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home in Washington, DC, last year and attached signs to his windows saying, “FOR SALE, SOLD – TO THE NRA, MASSACRE MITCH.” The protesters also stood in front of the door of his house with a large sign reading “MASSACRE MITCH.”

On the same day that protesters went to Dromm and Cumbo’s homes, a large group of parents, teachers, and students showed up at the home of Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, where they demanded that cops be removed from city schools. Carranza made no comments about the protest on social media.

Aside from the issue of the protesters’ aggressiveness, Dromm painted the scene as one in which the DSA attacked the wrong person, writing in one tweet, “I am an ally so I’m miffed why they chose to do this to me.”

But that did not square with the goal of the protest: The Council has only committed to a $1 billion reduction in the NYPD’s budget, while DSA members are calling for a $3 billion cut.

The response to the DSA demonstrations raised questions about the limits of political demonstration at the homes of elected officials. Is it acceptable to stage elaborate protests at the homes of homophobes, but not at the homes of lawmakers calling for a smaller reduction in the NYPD budget than some advocates are seeking?

A spokesperson for Dromm did not respond to a request for comment and Cumbo’s office did not answer a call seeking comment on June 19.

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