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Saratoga BLM: No Mediation Until Charges Are Dropped

The Saratoga Springs city council
City of Saratoga Springs/Livestream capture by WAMC
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The Saratoga Springs city council met Tuesday night

As the city of Saratoga Springs considers mediation with racial justice demonstrators, Saratoga Black Lives Matter has a new demand: drop the charges against those who were arrested on warrants two months after a July protest.

During the last Saratoga Spring city council meeting, as officials discussed hiring a firm for potential mediation with Saratoga Black Lives Matter, a handful of organizers downstairs were being arrested and processed for violations and misdemeanors several weeks after a July 14th protest on Broadway. Councilors said they were unaware of the arrests.

Over the past two weeks, others, learning of warrants issued for their arrests, have turned themselves in, including Tracy Sangare’s two children. She spoke during Tuesday night’s public comment period in a city council chambers with restricted capacity.

“Both of my children were in court today. My son came from college to turn himself in on his warrant. My 20-year-old son, who I watched walk into court shackled – shackled – my 20-year-old son. My husband and I were both there on July 14th. So we know what happened, we saw it. So we know this is bullshit.”

Over a dozen warrants have been issued for the protesters, mostly on minor charges related to blocking traffic. Police tactics – such as using Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputies to make arrests, keeping one protester locked for 14 hours before his arraignment, and the use of judicial warrants – have been condemned by BLM supporters and civic organizations like the League of Women Voters, Citizen Action, and New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU has also stated its concern for similar tactics being used in Schenectady.

Activists also claim officials are treating activists of color vs. those who are white differently.

Nedra Hickenbottom, whose children Chandler Hickenbottom and Lexis Figuereo have led Saratoga BLM efforts, posed a question to the council Tuesday night.

“Why does my son go into court shackled like an animal? Do I look like an animal to you? Because he came from me. My daughter came from me. I’m just as human as everyone in this room,” said Hickenbottom.

Saratoga BLM supporters have regularly attended city council meetings over the last few months, repeating their demands: chiefly, a full investigation into the death of Darryl Mount Jr., a biracial man who died several months after being injured in a police foot-chase on Labor Day Weekend, 2013.

For the last several weeks, city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, a Democrat, has been leading an effort to foster communication through mediation. But the recent arrests and tactics used by police have changed the dynamic.

Samira Sangare, Tracy’s daughter, spoke on behalf of Saratoga BLM Tuesday night.

“It’s time to step up an act like the so-called city officials you claim to be. As an organizer and activist with Saratoga BLM, there will be no mediation until the charges are dropped.”

Madigan offered a response at the conclusion of the public comment period.

“There is an item on my agenda on this evening to discuss mediation further, but I do think I heard what it’s going to take to move mediation forward, Samira, I believe you indicated what it would take. So, thank you and I will be in touch as we progress on this matter,” said Madigan.

Responding to comments that police prevented supporters from attending their fellow demonstrators’ arraignments earlier in the day, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who is also running an independent campaign for mayor, said she would attempt to find out what happened.

“I just wanted to say, I have a call and a request to find out what happened this morning in court. The initial answer I got was the court system has not let a gallery come in since COVID has been in place, that the protocols are just for the defendant and the attorneys are in there…I’m going to find…but that was the initial answer I got, so I want to confirm what happened, figure out, so I will get back to you and find out what happened,” said Dalton.