SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In 2020, the city of Schenectady joined other municipalities across the state and country by painting the phrase “Black Lives Matter” outside of city hall on Jay Street. Albany painted a similar mural on Lark Street.
The city spent around $13,000 according to a FOIL request by the Schenectady Republican Committee. Now, that same committee wants the mayor to remove the mural or provide equal space for what they call a “patriotic message”.
“We think it’s time to revisit it because the Black Lives Matter Network, which is what really represents Black Lives Matter and not a rhetorical sentence is an organization that has a political stance and you don’t get to, under the Constitution, use public property to take political stands if you don’t give an opportunity to those people who may disagree so that’s really our simple position,” says Matt Nelligan, the chair of the city’s Republican committee.
Nelligan says the views of the Black Lives Matter Organization are political in nature, linking the group to Marxism. “I think there was an emotional reaction to the events that happened in 2020 with George Floyd and the city reacted quickly and paid $13,000 to put the mural up. But, I don’t think they considered the implications of it either constitutionally or the ideology of it,” Nelligan says.
If the mural is not removed, he says the committee has a plan for its own mural on the other side of city hall. If that idea is rejected the committee is exploring potential legal action according to Nelligan.
“It’s about fairness for everybody as well as free speech and love of country so I think ‘God Bless America’ would be a great message on the other side of city hall. It would show the leaders here are responsive to the populace who are saying, a couple of years on, we should reevaluate what this means.”
Jamaica Miles, an activist in Schenectady and the co-founder of All of Us, says the mural is a call for justice and needs to remain. “We were in a moment in 2020 and we remain in that moment. A moment where there had been a realization by some of the importance of standing up for justice for everyone. That it is all of us that need to have access and opportunity to freedom to justice and liberty,” Miles explains. “Every time there has been a sense of racial progress, there has been a backlash against that progress that has been made. There has been this false sense of someone losing something because another group is moving forward. We cannot simply cower to fear and hate-mongering.”
Both organizations plan to present their petitions to the city council at its next meeting on July 11. The council backed the mural in 2020. Mayor Gary McCarthy could not be reached for comment regarding the fate of the mural.