Local criminal justice advocate calls Saturday’s violent protests an uprising, not a riot

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Following a weekend of violent protests in Albany, some local advocates and community members said they understand the outrage, while others said they’re hoping we can attempt to establish unity in a more peaceful way moving forward. 

“First of all, I really want everyone to know that I feel bad for the people who lost so much, but what I’m more concerned about is the fact that people need to understand what actually happened,” Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, said. “It wasn’t a riot. We see it as an uprising.”

Green told NEWS10 ABC the outrage behind the violent protests that broke out over the weekend went beyond the death of George Floyd. She said it was a demonstration of the profound effect systemic racism has had and continues to have on Albany minorities.

“There are some in the community who are so fed up, who have been down so low and dehumanized that they respond differently sometimes. It depends on how they see the world and how the world has treated them,” she explained.

On Sunday morning, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins and Mayor Kathy Sheehan condemned the vandalism and violence. Green said they shouldn’t have been surprised because the CFLJ had been advising them of the uneasiness for quite awhile and presented them with a survey from the community.

“That there is racism, that there is distrust, and pretty much officials have ignored that, and unless our officials recognize this we’re not going to get anywhere, we’re just going to keep going around in a circle,” said Green.

Green said the center has also been organizing a “Recommitment to Community Policing” symposium scheduled for the fall. They’ve also been calling for a number of changes, including a repeal of Civil Service Law 50-A, which would allow for more disclosure of histories of police misconduct and personnel records. They’re also calling for the city to deem structural racism a public health crisis, revisions of excessive force policies, Civil Rights History curriculum and training for the police department, and leaving it to state officials to investigate all police shootings.

“Ya know, there’s so much that we could be doing, but we’ve got to acknowledge the problem, and that’s the first order of business,” said Green.

Pastor Charlie Muller with Victory Church held a prayer vigil on Sunday evening in response to the unrest. He said he spent the earlier portion of the day helping with damage clean up throughout the city.

“It (the violence) doesn’t accomplish anything. If anything, it does more damage than good. I think there’s a way to be able to have dialogue without using that kind of violence to bring forth your point,” said Pastor Charlie.

He told NEWS10 he fully understands the frustration, but that he wishes Albany has handled it more like Schenectady where officers were seen kneeling in solidarity and walking hand in hand with protestors.

“I’m hearing more about that than any of the negative, so wouldn’t it make sense if we do a little bit more of that?” said Pastor Charlie.

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