Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:35 p.m. Monday. It incorrectly stated how Trayvon Martin was killed.
Shirey Archie, a black activist from Albany, had a message for a crowd gathered outside Saratoga Springs City Hall on Sunday: He is afraid for his son.
“I woke up today thinking about my 12-year-old son,” he said, explaining how his boy was reaching the age when interactions with police become increasingly perilous for young black men. “That’s a minefield and I don’t know the route through it.”
He said he was confident he has raised his son with the knowledge and courage and skills to be safe in the world. But he can’t know for sure, he said. The mothers of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin thought they had raised their kids to be safe too. “And they were wrong,” he said, invoking the names of unarmed black youths killed in recent years.
“It doesn’t make sense this day and age that I have to figure out how to get my kid through life when any [white] parent in Saratoga Springs doesn’t have to do the same,” Archie added.
Some of those Saratoga parents joined Archie and around 50 others on Sunday for a demonstration to “stand in solidarity” with the victims of police violence and the “take a knee” movement that has swept into American politics and football. Just as people across the region sat down for the first NFL games of the day, the demonstrators took a knee in front of City Hall.
“Protest is patriotic,” said Paul Donahue, a Niskayuna resident and Vietnam veteran who served in the Army in 1968. “As a veteran, I fought for your right to protest.”
About a dozen demonstrators held white placards carrying the names of black people killed by police, stretching back to the 1990s. One by one the demonstrators called out the names of the people who had died and promised to never forget their lives.
Linda LeTendre, one of the demonstration organizers, said activists planned to send a picture of the event to the White House and that hopefully other communities in the region and the country would hold similar demonstrations.
“This is what solidarity looks like, this is what democracy looks like, this is what America looks like,” LeTendre said.
Kathleen Sephas, who was born and raised in Saratoga, said she has long experienced racism in the community. She said her son was arrested in Glens Falls for stealing a purse – on a dare from a girl he liked – and at age 17 was sentenced to at least three years in prison for his first offense. While in prison, her son suffered from a brain tumor and died when he was 24 years old. She said he didn’t receive the care he needed.
If her son was white, she said, things would have been different from the beginning. He wouldn’t have been profiled by police or sentenced to as much as seven years for stealing a purse, she said.
“I think there is a lot of racism here,” she said. “It’s 2017, this has to stop.”