By VINNY GROSSMAN
On Thursday afternoon, April 22, the Albany, N.Y., PD brutally attacked protesters occupying the space outside of South Side Station in the city. The encampment had been in place for a week. Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan Tweeted that she “fully support[ed]” the decision. Eight activists are now facing charges.
At a Schenectedy press conference on Friday, activist and arrestee Mikayla Foster explained that on Wednesday, the chief of police had explicitly told protesters they would not be arrested and had the right to peacefully protest. Foster went on to compare the level of violence of her arrest with the crime for which she was accused. The former included being pushed to the ground, told by police she was going to be put in a “cage,” and jailed for the night. Her “crimes” were peacefully protesting and writing on sidewalks with washable chalk.
Protesters were given no warning that the encampment was going to be broken up. Police had given them all of fifteen minutes notice to disperse. Emptying an area that had been not only sustaining a political occupation but also feeding and housing community members in 15 minutes is an impossibility. Foster recalled that she had been complying with the request when she was arrested. Pictures taken by activists appear to show black duct tape covering police badge numbers.
The occupation was in part a response to police attacking an April 14 demonstration protesting the murder of Duante Wright. Local news reports that the April 14 rally was completely peaceful and that the instigating incident was an APD officer knocking a megaphone out of a protester’s hand.
One of the demands of the protests was to end the city’s use of chemical weapons. That was put to a common council vote on Tuesday, April 19, but the organization tabled the measure. WAMC, a local NPR affiliate, reported that “Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, said Friday she supports restricted use of tear gas and rubber bullets, but doesn’t back an outright ban.”
Police brutality against protesters and bipartisan crackdown on protest rights are fundamental components of today’s political landscape. Socialist Resurgence stands with Capital Area activists in their fights to defund and disarm the police. SR also supports all charges being dropped, and we are inspired by the continued mobilization of arrestees, as well as support from the community.
According to a Facebook post from Diamond DaDon, the main demands of the occupation are:
1) We demand that Devin J. Anderson be fired immediately—and being that Kathy Sheehan has refused to take action for more than 36 hours, we DEMAND HE BE PLACED ON THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY FOR HIS VIOLENCE AND ABUSE AGAINST COMMUNITY MEMBERS. We Demand that Officer Felton is fired immediately. WE DEMAND THAT THEY FACE ACCOUNTABILITY AND ARE UNABLE TO BECOME COPS IN OTHER COMMUNITIES. WE DEMAND JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY.
2) We demand that the Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Chief Hawkins fulfill their duty to uphold the repeal of 50A. We demand a database be created in cooperation with the Albany CPRB. The Albany Civilian police review boards purpose is to investigate police misconduct on behalf of the people. POLICE SHOULD NOT BE INVESTIGATING POLICE.
3) We demand that all APD officers go through psyche evaluations given by outsourced resources and ANTI-RACISM TRAININGS CONSISTENTLY THROUGH OUT EACH YEAR.
4) WE DEMAND THAT ALL USE OF CHEMICAL AGENTS ON CIVILIANS ARE BANNED FROM USE 100%. INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO: TEAR GAS, BEAR SPRAY, MACE, ETC.
5) WE DEMAND THAT EVERY CAPITAL REGION POLICE FORCE IS DEFUNDED AND RESOURCES ARE REALLOCATED TO THE COMMUNITIES WHICH THEY SERVE.
6) We not only demand that Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Hawkins sit on a panel that truly allows the public to have a voice in police transformation but we also demand a FULL BAN ON THE USE OF ALL CHEMICAL AGENTS AGAINST PROTESTORS AND CITIZENS.
7) We also demand that Saratoga Mayor Meg Kelly and Police Chief Crooks actually implement the 50-point plan that people worked so hard to create within their task force.
8) We also demand that Troy Mayor Patrick Madden and Chief of Police Brian Owens CREATE a CPRB with Subpoena powers, and full representation of the communities with inclusion to BIPOC, and marginalized people and create and reallocate resources to the community.
9) We also demand that Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Chief Eric Clifford BAN ALL KNEE TO HEAD/NECK HOLDS and reconvene the Police Task Force and implement the 13 demands directly into policy.
Photo: Protester is surrounded on all sides by police (Spotlight News)