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Albany Mayor, Police Chief Present Footage Of Wednesday Clash At South Station

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan address reporters at South Station as Chief Eric Hawkins looks on.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan address reporters at Albany Police HQ on April 16, 2021, as Chief Eric Hawkins looks on.

City officials held a press conference Friday afternoon to give a clearer picture of events that unfurled during a protest in Albany Wednesday evening that turned tense when Black Lives Matter protestors threw water bottles and yelled expletives at police officers and police appeared to spray some protestors.

Police Chief Eric Hawkins says what happened Wednesday evening was not a peaceful protest.

"It was a riot," Hawkins said. "It was a planned, premeditated, calculated effort on the part of individuals to attack police officers and police property. And their motivation appeared to be to elicit a response from police officers, a response that will be recorded, they're recording manipulate it, and then used to further a false narrative about what happened during that incident. And about similar incidents that have been happening not just here, but across the country. "

Hawkins played videos from fixed mounted cameras outside South Station as well as officers' body cameras. Certain protestors could be observed in the videos behaving differently from others: one individual dressed in a blue hoodie went to great lengths to conceal his or her identity. Others were dressed in military garb. One protestor carried a megaphone, while another shone a high intensity light at police officers assembled at the front door and on the ramp to South Station.

Hawkins, who is also Black, was upset that protestors targeted young Black police officers assigned to South Station.

Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan says local media outlets haven’t told the whole story.

"I have to say our officers, particularly our Black officers, were subjected to language and slurs that had they been uttered by a co-worker, that co-worker would have been fired," Sheehan said. "They sought to de-escalate the situation. They removed themselves from the front of South Station. It was only after the protesters were banging on the doors, trying to get in, breaking a window, all of that done by protesters, not by the police, by protesters, in a scene that was eerily familiar to us, and reminded me of what we saw at the Capitol on January 6th. None of that was reported by the media. Many of you were not there when these incidents occurred. But some of you saw them and chose not to report them. Protesters violently assaulting South Station, using a blinding light to interfere with officers' ability to do their jobs, and screaming provocations, including disgusting racial slurs at Black officers."

Chief Hawkins promises protestors will be charged. He added he does not expect any violence from a protest planned for Saturday.

"We'll have a presence there, just a loose presence, not in the demonstrations themselves," Hawkins said. "But you know, we always increase our officer staff for traffic related reasons, you know, usually, it impacts traffic in the area. And also, if we have to devote some officers to that area, for whatever reasons, we need to make sure that we have enough officers to answer regular calls for service from our community. So we may have a heightened presence for that. But we're not expecting any violence."

Saturday's protest is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. in Townsend Park.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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