On January 12, people protesting the police murder of Andre Hill asked an unmasked New York Police Department cop, Artem Prusayev, to put on a face covering. He was disregarding public health in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black and Brown people. His response was to pull out his gun, even more directly endangering lives.
Many people do not survive armed encounters with the police.
Despite clear documentation of the incident, Officer Prusayev remains employed by the NYPD, working out of the 84th precinct in Brooklyn. The NYPD’s refusal to hold him accountable recalls the Minneapolis Police Department’s failure to remove Derek Chauvin from his position following years of complaints of police brutality. Chauvin went on to shoot an Indigenous man and then murder George Floyd. Prusayev, who according to the Civilian Complaint Review Board has two recent allegations of using excessive physical force, may pose a similar threat.
The state continues to empower the police to threaten, brutalize, and murder Black and Brown people. In New York City, the community has stepped up to keep each other safe and demand justice. Every week since Prusayev threatened people in January, organizers have marched to the 84th Precinct to demand the NYPD “Fire Artem!” and revoke his pension. The community doesn’t need more aggressive police roaming the streets, argue organizers — particularly officers with a history of violence.
During the early actions, police arrested close to 10 people and deployed a military-grade sonic weapon known as an LRAD against protesters. The NYPD’s use of that same weapon against people protesting the murder of Eric Garner in 2014 resulted in a lawsuit and settlement of more than $700,000.
In recent weeks, the NYPD has violently escalated its response, sending out police in riot gear, including from the Strategic Response Group (SRG), known for its oppressive tactics. Last week, at least six protestors were arrested and several ended up in the hospital. The NYPD has specifically targeted the core Black organizers of the Fire Artem protests, replicating one of the oppressive tactics the FBI unleashed in the 60’s in response to movements with revolutionary potential, like the Black Panther Party.
Despite the risks, organizers have committed to continuing to march every Saturday until Prusayev is fired. Such recurring, targeted actions keep the pressure on the police, build long-term power, and lay the foundation for sustained struggle. But just as the single conviction of Derek Chauvin hasn’t stopped police murders, the termination of a lone NYPD officer will not end police brutality. That will only happen when the NYPD, the Minneapolis Police Department, and all other police departments are disarmed, defunded, and abolished. And that can be accomplished only by the working class coming together in solidarity with Black and Brown grassroots movements and building our power from the ground up.