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Activists Call Arrests Intimidation Tactic

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Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
Activists in Saratoga Springs speak during a press conference on Thursdsay

City of Saratoga Springs police have made several arrests related to a Black Lives Matter protest nearly two months ago. On Thursday, activists gathered on the steps of City Hall to claim officials were attempting to quiet their demands.

Tensions have remained high as activists in Saratoga Springs continue to call on the city to investigate the 2013 incident that seriously injured Darryl Mount Jr. Mount, a biracial man, died months after a foot-chase involving city police. An internal investigation of the incident was never completed. The city is facing a wrongful death lawsuit from Mount’s family.

Seven were arrested on the heels of a demonstration on Broadway July 14th.

The Saratoga Springs Police Department has accused protesters of obstructing traffic, with others facing charges for allegedly preventing a vehicle from moving during part of the rally.

Those who have been charged are among the most vocal Black Lives Matter organizers in the Capital Region.

Co-founder of the organization All of Us and new member of the Schenectady public school board Jamaica Miles turned herself in to police Thursday morning. Joining other activists in front of Saratoga Springs City Hall, Miles said she had learned there was a warrant for her arrest.

“This effort is an abuse of power. It is fear mongering and intimidation,” Miles said.

The first arrest relating to the warrants issued August 31st, according to police, came Tuesday evening.

Lexis Figuereo, who has organized several protests since the spring of 2020, was stopped by deputies on Tuesday. He faces a charge of disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic on July 14th, as well two counts of Obstructing Governmental Administration for disrupting city council meetings in July.

Figuereo, who also faces charges related to a demonstration and encampment in front of Albany’s South Station earlier this year, wondered why he wasn’t contacted by Saratoga Springs police before his arrest this week.

“The police officers have my phone number. They could have called me, told me to turn myself in, ‘We have a warrant for your arrest and let your crew know we have warrants for them as well.’ I would have turned myself in. I’m not a flight risk. I’m not going anywhere,” said Figuereo.

Figuereo’s phone was also confiscated and has not been returned.

After learning that Figuereo had been arrested on Tuesday, other local activists assembled outside the doors of the Saratoga Springs Police station at city hall. Several officers asked three of the individuals who had unknowingly been charged with warrants to come inside, where they were detained and charged.

One woman, who is also the mother of Figuereo’s children, was also arrested while attempting to intervene. She was charged with resisting arrest, endangering the welfare of a child, and assault for allegedly throwing a water bottle at an officer.

On Wednesday, another arrest was made in Clifton Park. Alexander Patterson, a Clifton Park town board candidate who also holds a second job delivering pizzas, was arrested by deputies in his apartment complex.

“I was happening to be taking a delivery to the apartment complex I live in. I just looked up as I was taking food up to a door and two cops were calling my name,” said Patterson.

Patterson faces disorderly conduct and unlawful imprisonment charges related to July 14th. He said he was held for 14 hours to be arraigned on the charges, a violation and a misdemeanor.

After several of those charged spoke on the City Hall steps Thursday, Saratoga Springs Public Information Officer Bob Jillson addressed reporters inside.

“These arrests are based upon actions conducted by the people we’re charging. It has nothing to do with supressing their civil rights or suppressing their right to protest peacefully, however it’s to hold them accountable to actions they took that violate the law,” said Jillson.

Jillson defended the police department’s handling of the arrests, and attempted to explain why the arrests were made outside the police department door Tuesday.

“It just so happens that three of the people that came here, we also had warrants for. So we took them into custody. Taking people and arresting them is not always pretty,” said Jillson.

Jillson said there were “a couple more” outstanding warrants stemming from the July 14th protest, including for the brother of one of those arrested Tuesday.

Jillson was also asked by reporters about Patterson’s 14-hour stay.

“We had four people overnight in the police station. Happens quite often,” replied Jillson.

Tom Keefe, a retired judge and attorney representing Jamaica Miles, characterized the arrest of individuals on a warrant for a violation “not normal” in his life experience.

“The normal process, in my experience, is a police officer assigned to a matter and who has been involved in investigating a matter – and this has been going on since July – would make a phone call to the defendant and say, ‘We’re going to bring charges against you, would you be willing to come in and talk to me?’ Right? And it could be talking or it could be saying, ‘I’ll come in and turn myself in but I’m not talking to you,’ kind of thing,” said Keefe.

As BLM supporters were being detained Tuesday evening, upstairs the city council conducted its regular meeting.

There, councilors approved a measure to hire a mediation firm to foster communication between activists and the city council – a process initiated after explosive meetings in July.

Figuereo was asked about the move by the council in light of the arrests of activists.

“We haven’t reviewed any of the firms yet whatsoever, and of course this changes a lot of the dynamics when we believe the Saratoga Springs City Council is in cahoots with the police department for this political attack,” said Figuereo.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, a Democrat who has led the effort to hire the moderator, issued a press release Thursday afternoon after the press conference with BLM activists. She said she had not known of the arrests before or during Tuesday’s council meeting. As for moving forward with mediation, Madigan said in part:

“I need a clear commitment from Saratoga BLM that they are willing to enter into mediation with the City of Saratoga Springs. I and my fellow council members want productive dialogue with this organization, and we feel this is only possible through mediation, which will require the expenditure of city funds. Without such a commitment from Saratoga BLM there can be no dialogue and no mediation.”