Chants and signs bearing the words "No new cops" and "Hedge fund mayor" could reportedly be heard and seen as Yang tried to speak

By Virginia Chamlee
June 04, 2021 05:49 PM

A group of protestors disrupted a Thursday press conference by New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, cutting short the planned event being held at a Brooklyn YMCA.

As Yang arrived in Brooklyn, where he had been expected to criticize Mayor Bill de Blasio, he was met by members of the social justice organization New York Communities for Change and other progressive groups.

The protestors shouted Yang, 46, down as he attempted to speak to them and then deliver planned remarks — but instead he eventually walked away into a nearby subway station, where he spoke to reporters.

"The gaggle of about eight demonstrators followed the mayoral candidate for more than a block," The New York Daily News reported.

Chants and signs bearing the words "No new cops" and "Hedge fund mayor" could be heard and seen as Yang tried to speak, according to Politico.

The chair of the group, LeRoy Johnson, told the outlet: "We have been fighting for this city for many years, from fast food, raising the minimum wage, all this stuff. We have never seen Mr. Yang. In all this 16 years, I have been out on the streets fighting. I have never seen Mr. Yang until he was running for president."

In a statement to PEOPLE, Yang spokesman Jake Sporn blamed the protest on rival candidate Scott Stringer, which a Stringer spokesman denied to Politico.

"We had nothing to do with Andrew's troubles this morning — they were entirely of his own making," the Ssringer spokesman said. "Now that New Yorkers are on to his cons and gimmicks and turning on him, he's making silly, sorry excuses."

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Andrew Yang
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In his own statement, Sporn took aim at Stringer's previous support for cutting funding to New York police (a position he has revised).

"Andrew doesn't think we should defund the NYPD at a time of soaring gun violence — Scott Stringer's campaign found the 7 people in Brooklyn who disagree in a desperate attempt to distract from his failing campaign," Sporn said.

New York Communities for Change previously endorsed Stringer but reversed that after a sexual harassment allegation against him, according to Politico. Stringer has denied wrongdoing.

Footage of Yang speaking to reporters after walking away from the protestors was shared by Sporn on Twitter.

"The biggest chant I heard was 'No new cops,' which I think goes against what I'm hearing from most New Yorkers," Yang said. "Most New Yorkers, if anything, want more cops. And we need to replace the thousands of police officers who are retiring. I'm very clear that 'defund the police' is the wrong approach and I think that was the main message of the protestors."

According to the group's spokesperson, the progressive Our City PAC organized the protest at Yang's event in Brooklyn with NYCC and other groups.

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, Our City director Gabe Tobias said there are "better, more progressive alternatives to Yang" and fellow front-runner Eric Adams.

"In the days ahead, we'll be urging voters across the city not to rank Yang or Adams for Mayor. We have a lot more planned. Stay tuned," Tobias said.

Yang, who previously ran to be the Democratic nominee for president, announced his campaign for mayor in January.

"New York City has been my home for 25 years. It's Evelyn's home. We're public school parents," he said in a video on social media at the time. "I'm running for mayor for my two boys, for you, and for every New Yorker. Let's fight for a future New York City that we can all be proud of."

Among Yang's goals are establishing a guaranteed minimum income, providing affordable internet access to residents and improving transportation infrastructure. On his campaign website, he also outlines plans to provide COVID-19 relief and for reopening the city.

He has emerged as a leading contender in the race — though he has also faced increasing scrutiny over his lack of political experience, his connections to the city and his potential leaderships style.