Protesters were back on the streets Monday after the city cleaned up from Saturday’s dangerous protests, when city police and backup agencies used riot gear, dogs, gas and officers on horseback to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the department’s South Station.
Several storefronts were smashed and there were reports of looting, prompting Mayor Kathy Sheehan to impose a curfew.
Protesters shut down the intersection of Livingston Ave and Henry Johnson Blvd. A crowd of hundreds, many holding posters reading “I can’t breathe” with pictures of George Floyd, chanted “No justice, no peace.”
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins spoke at the rally and spent time with individual demonstrators. Danielle Howard said Hawkins seemed genuine about opening communication between police officers and African Americans in Albany.
“We talked for a while and had a very honest conversation,” Howard said. “And my question to him was, ‘How does the dialogue stay open?’ You know? Like, don’t let it be something that’s happening right now because people are upset. People are still going to go back to their lives when all of this kind of simmers down and people need to know that at the end of the day they’re still going to be heard and how can their things be heard? And he said that he’s going to make sure that he makes himself accessible and that he’s going to make sure that he’s seen more often and that people understand that they have a way to get in touch with him.”
Howard says the protesters are angry because they feel government leaders are ignoring their complaints.
“The police chief came out here,” Howard said. “At what point is the mayor going to come out here? Is the mayor going to let things be heard? She only came out and voiced her opinion on the riots and the looting. So what about this? What about the protests that are happening repeatedly? Over and over and over again she remains silent.”
Attending the rally, Albany Councilman Owusu Anane says racism is reflected in the number of black elected officials in Albany.
“We have 45% African Americans,” Anane said. “There should be no reason why we don’t have a state representative. There should be no reason why our police force is not as diverse. We only have roughly less than 10 police officers out of 350 police officers all in total. So again, we have to start occupying some of these spaces.”
Anane says there are actions Governor Cuomo can take to help the protesters.
“What about repealing 50-A in a civil rights – so police and firefighters information can be provided during the discovery,” Anane said. “Those types of policies. Before we start looking at other places we have to start looking at ‘What are some of the improvements we can make as elected officials?’”
On WAMC Monday afternoon, the Democratic governor said he would sign a bill rolling back 50-A.
At the intersection of Livingston Ave. and Henry Johnson Blvd., police officers were not in riot gear. Many moved among the crowd engaging in conversation with protesters.