Activist Lukee Forbes is ubiquitous at protests and community events throughout the Capital Region. You can usually find him at the front of the crowd, in black clothes black and brown leather work boots.
The outspoken advocate for police reform is often seen with a megaphone in his hand.
Arrested when he was 15, Forbes was convicted in an assault case.
In jail, Forbes obtained his GED and read over 800 books and researched the justice system.
He was released at age 24 after winning an appeal.
Today, the 26-year-old is an employee of the City of Albany, serving as an administrative assistant for Albany’s summer youth employment program.
On July 14th, Forbes filmed an arrest of a Black man by city police and county sheriff’s deputies across the street from WAMC, on the sidewalk beside The Linda.
Forbes posted the video to his Facebook page, where it was shared nearly 2,000 times. Now, police are charging him with the Obstruction of Government Administration in the Second Degree.
WAMC recently sat down with Forbes in Albany’s Washington Park, asked him if he had a message for city Police Chief Eric Hawkins.
Forbes: Multiple times I've said it live, I've said it to him: Why can't we get social workers? What's going on with the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program? Why aren't we utilizing the things that we have access to? And then why are you allowing these programs to die?
And yet, we continue to just get over-policed, over-bullied, and things like this. It's like, you don't see anything going on. When this person was sitting there saying that he didn't care that he was ready to die…over what? And why aren't you trying to figure out, for what? Why aren't you answering these questions? Why are you still just trying to bend him up and force him into this car? Stop, talk to him, de-escalate him, calm him down. I can't be calm because I'm upset because I continue to watch this. And I continue to try to fight for justice in my community, yet you're ignoring us.
Willard: Do you think that the city retaliated in charging you with obstructing government administration?
Forbes: I completely believe that the city retaliated in charging me with this. There's no other reason to charge me with this. You've seen worse being done at multiple occasions when people yell at cops.
Willard: Do you think that that charge wouldn't have come at you if you had not been an employee of the city?
Forbes: I don't think that that charge would have came at me if I didn't have as much social output. If I wasn't so viewed, like my Facebook wasn't so viewed, I don't think I would've been charged.
Willard: Do you think that you've built a reputation up among city officials in your activism?
Forbes: Yeah, definitely.
Willard: What do you think city officials think of you?
Forbes: I feel as if they think that I'm too outspoken and that I may be too blunt in my approach. But I don't feel as if that's a bad thing. I feel as if everyone should be saying what they believe and then also sticking to it.
Willard: You get officials saying ‘we respect peaceful protests.’ Do you think that they’re believing a myth about protesting, is that it should be, you know, ‘ask the city for a permit,’ it should be ‘tidy?’
Forbes: What's the difference between what are we what are we doing this not peaceful, is my question. Because when we go out there we peacefully protest. And then they say that they respect peaceful protesting. So what are we doing? If we yell, that's a part of protesting. If we're passionate, that's a part of protesting. Where is the lack of peacefulness? I don't see what they're talking about versus what we're doing.
Willard: Do you think that people need to open their eyes to what activism ‘actually is’ and when people say they support a cause maybe they should…
Forbes: …Learn about the cause. Everyone should definitely study, learn. If they don't follow me on Facebook. I post different things all the time. We watch as so much goes on around us but we barely pay attention to it. And it’s reason why I say I want to speak to the silent majority. It’s the crowd, it's like American Idol. You have the people that's directly in the audience. You have the people that's watching TV, and you then have the people that actually vote, when they say, hey, you can text this number and vote as well. So there are people that are directly connected with it. And then there are people that just watching it from the screen that don't really get, that don't see all the outs and ends the cameraman, the guy right there saying everyone clap. So no one really sees all that. They just see what they see, what's shown to them, as sometimes was shown to you is not always what it really is. So I definitely feel as if everyone should study and not only study, get out there. Walk with us, come outside, walk with us.
On August first, Forbes and a handful of counter-protesters walked into a “Back the Blue” pro-police rally. Forbes dragged a “thin blue line” flag – which he calls a fake flag – behind him.
Forbes said he said was threatened by white supremacists in the crowd.
After being pushed out of the gathering and making his case to State Police on hand, Forbes was escorted back in.
Forbes also spoke to Bill Tryon of the Liberty Bell Alliance, the last scheduled speaker at the rally. WAMC asked Forbes what Tryon told him.
Forbes: Do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘Why aren't you talking about black-on-black crime?’
And what I said to him was who kills Italian in Italy? Italians. Who kills white people in the suburbs? White people. The reason why you see a lot of crime going on in our community is because we lacked the resources. This is why we say, ‘Can we defund the police and fund community?’
Willard: What did he say to that?
Forbes: He had nothing to say. Because logic always makes more sense than foolishness.
Willard: Do you think that people, if they sort of take one side, that their mind can be changed?
Forbes: No, they definitely can. There was a veteran there who was open minded and his biggest thing was he didn't want riots, he didn't want violence, and he was against racism. And I said, I don't want riots, I don't want violence, and I'm against racism. And we shook hands. He gave me a mask and we went about our day.
And those are the type of things that we want. Those are the type of things that cause the change and it causes the stereotypes and discrimination to be brought away.
WAMC reached out to the Albany Police Department and Bill Tryon of the Liberty Bell Alliance comment. The Albany Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
From Bill Tryon:
"Son, America has not failed you. Your communities have not failed you because of the lack of programs, but the lack of DADS to discipline, dads to love, dads to teach, guide and encourage, my heart breaks for you my son as you search your known world for the dad you know you desperately need, to get the love you know you desperately need, no wonder you are angry, I would be angry too!!
I’m sorry son but no amount of money or programs can change your communities until your dads again start taking an active interest in their sons and daughters lives and start throwing the angry murderous RAPP industry and drugs out the windows of your homes, until your dads start running the gang members out of your yards and off the streets in your neighborhoods because they love you enough to intervene in your lives, and protect you and teach you, and they put you son above themselves on their list of priorities, that’s what dads are supposed to do son, that’s love!
Then son you will have a chance, then young man you will become an American Citizen in a great country that loves you for who you are, and judges you not by the color of your skin but the content of your character as Martin Luther King said so beautifully!
And possibly the greatest blessings of all shall fall upon the dads who return to their roles in the home, as dads regaining a purpose in life, a pride in life, of a son in their footsteps or a daughter in their arms!
Bill Tryon, The Liberty Bell Alliance 76 (it rings for you too son)"