Civil rights orgs address Albany police protest

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Center for Law and Justice and the local NAACP chapter held a press conference at 11 a.m.

The organizations say they are taking issue with “the shameful and irresponsible action of Mayor Kathy Sheehan to violently remove peaceful demonstrators on Thursday, April 22 from their encampment in front of the South Station.”

The media briefing from the civil and human rights organizations on what they call “the crisis in public safety in Albany” was held outdoors. The president of the Albany Chapter of the NAACP, Debora Brown Johnson, and the executive director of the Center for Law and Justice, Dr. Alice Green, will be on hand to address recent tensions between police and protestors.

A press release from the Center for Law and Justice says they will recommend ways to transform Albany policing “due to the lack of strong and effective leadership by the Mayor and Police Chief.” Johnson and Green are set to talk about how the “militaristic-style attack” impacts populations of color.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins directed police to clear away an encampment of protesters last week. The city officials have said the media failed to report a riot when protestors broke a window, threw water bottles, and defaced the Albany Police Department’s South Station with spray paint.

The Mayor’s Office released a letter it received on April 22 from Capital City Rescue Mission CEO, Rev. Perry Jones. The letter included a laundry list of complaints about the protesters. Jones said the protestors interfered with the mission’s work, harassed staff and volunteers, blocked parking, delayed construction, urinated and defecated outdoors, stole dumpsters, held open fires, and played loud music while cursing, drinking, and smoking pot.

Images and video taken on the day the police tried to clear out the encampment seem to show officers with riot shields featuring “thin blue line” decorations and with names and badge numbers covered by duct tape. Protesters have said they used water-soluble spray chalk, and that Sheehan and Hawkins have decided against meeting with them.

Some city officials have released statements regarding the police response. The Chief City Auditor, Dr. Dorcey Applyrs, and six city council members called the event “disheartening and overly aggressive.” In a statement released Friday, they said that police “should be exercising extra caution to deescalate matters and utilize trusted voices in the Community to help address community concerns of injustice and police brutality.”

“While we respect APD’s duty to prioritize public safety, we strongly denounce the approach they used,” the statement said. The city council members included in that statement include: Sonia Frederick, Joyce Love, Jahmel Robinson, Judy Doesschate, Owusu Anane, and Alfredo Balarin.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said, “I personally stand by the mayor.”

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