Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched through Albany Saturday evening, returning to the city police department’s South Station, where on Wednesday officers clashed with protesters.
Protesters made their way from Albany’s Townsend Park to South Station, chanting the names of Black individuals killed by police: 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago; 20-year-old Daunte Wright near Minneapolis; and 37-year-old Edson Thevenin in Troy, killed on the same day five years earlier.
Outside the station in the South End, a door damaged by protestors three days earlier had already been fixed.
On Friday, Police Chief Eric Hawkins, joined by Mayor Kathy Sheehan, talked reporters through edited video footage of Wednesday’s altercation between protestors and police in the doorway of the station, where several individuals, including a 14-year-old girl, were pepper sprayed.
”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,” said Hawkins.
But activists dispute Hawkins’ portrayal of the events. Legacy Casanova, who was at the station doorway on Wednesday, said it was Albany Police Lieutenant Devin Anderson’s swatting of a light and a megaphone out of activists’ hands that escalated the situation.
“They said we tried to paint a narrative. We have unedited footage. Live footage,” said Casanova.
Casanova, a local Black Lives Matter organizer, was among those calling for Anderson’s resignation, along with another officer who Casanova says struck him with a baton.
The demonstrations came a month after the City of Albany completed a seven-month police reform effort, in line with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203.
Casanova said the reform plan does nothing to build his trust in police.
“Not at all. Not until these officers resign without pay.”
Demonstrators were also angered by comments made by Mayor Sheehan during Friday’s press briefing, where the Democrat compared Wednesday’s events to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Sheehan later apologized and said she did not mean to compare the actions of BLM protesters to insurrectionists, adding her “comments referred to the physical actions of the use of violence to attempt to gain unlawful entry into a government building. To be clear, the January 6 insurrection was fueled by white supremacy and was an assault on our democracy.”
In contrast to Wednesday’s events, Albany Police did not directly engage with protesters for most of Saturday’s rally. A pair of officers briefly attempted to discourage demonstrators from lighting campfires in corrugated steel enclosures.
APD Public Information Officer Steve Smith tweeted a statement as demonstrators chanted outside:
“The Albany Police Department supports the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest. We will continue assisting with traffic control and providing a safe space for participants to make their voices heard,” said Smith.
Earlier in the evening, APD patrol officers diverted traffic away from the marching crowd.
On the street beside the New York State Capitol, a woman in a white sedan attempted to drive her vehicle up Washington Avenue as marchers came from the other direction.
Timothy Seguia, an activist who was working as perimeter security, attempted to halt the vehicle.
“As they continued moving, I sat on top of the car just to make sure, like, ‘Hey, like, stop. Like, you are going to hit people.’ And then they short-stopped, I landed in front of the car and I continued to put my body in front of the car,” said Seguia.
The car moved past Seguia and continued several yards before stopping again in front of a protester’s vehicle at the rear of the march. The driver, a white woman, verbally sparred with angered demonstrators, repeatedly using the n-word. After exiting her vehicle, a brief physical fight ensued before the woman drove away.
Early Sunday, some demonstrators remained in front of South Station after spending the night in tents pitched outside near still-smoldering campfires.