ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Albany Police Department arrested eight people as they ended the demonstration outside of South Station on Thursday afternoon. Social media posts showed officers leading several protesters away in handcuffs as police cleared the side of tents and barricades.
Charges the suspects are facing include disorderly conduct, obstruction of governmental administration, and second degree riot. Five were released and given appearance tickets, the remaining three have been transported to Albany County Jail. Albany Police say some were also arrested for their role in an incident on Wednesday, April 14.
Police Chief Eric Hawkins declared the department’s intention to end the “unlawful occupation” of South Station shortly before officers moved in. Protests outside the station began last week, following an altercation between demonstrators and officers during a separate Black Lives Matter protest.
During a series of tweets, Chief Hawkins cited public safety, along with concerns from residents and police station staff, as the reason the occupation had to end. He said:
“We have heard the grievances of the protesters loud and clear. We have also heard the concerns from members of that neighborhood as well as officers & non-sworn staff who serve from the South Station. For public safety purposes, it is time to end this unlawful occupation.”
Hawkins went on to say protesters could continue to demonstrate, “but they must do so in a space that is safe and lawful.”
Mayor Kathy Sheehan also tweeted out her support for Chief Hawkins’ decision to remove the encampment. She said:
“I fully support Chief Hawkins’ decision to end the unlawful encampment while providing space for peaceful protests that keeps our residents, workforce, and protestors safe.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) initially responded to Albany Police’s actions, claiming the police were using “aggressive tactics” and have “used tear gas against protesters while reportedly obscuring identification badges.”
Albany Police issued a response, denying tear gas during the operation. The NYCLU then issued a revised statement which dropped the allegations tear gas was used, but maintaining that officers were using aggressive tactics and some members of the police force were obscuring their identities. They also posted a tweet stating they “can no longer confirm that tear gas has been in use this evening and have deleted our earlier tweet — however, the violence instigated by Albany Police is still deeply troubling and inexcusable.
NYCLU Director of Chapters Caroline Nagy said: “Members of Albany law enforcement are instigating violence while reportedly concealing their identification badges. This is neither accountability nor justice, and shows that the police are deliberately refusing to police themselves.
Nagy goes on to demand officers who obscure their identity be “subject to discipline.”
This is a developing story and more information will be added as it becomes available.