CAPITAL REGION — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday addressed the civil unrest that’s taken place in response to instances of police brutality nationwide.
He continued to emphasize the difference between protesting racial inequality and those he believes have been exploiting the movement for their own personal gain.
“There’s a totally different situation that has nothing to do with the protesters,” Cuomo said. “People see this moment and they exploit it.”
His comments come during a week of protests and late-night looting following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes.
In Albany, where the city has seen multiple days of protests, Police Chief Eric Hawkins has also underscored the distinction and said those disrupting local peaceful protests are from outside of the area.
“What we’re seeing in Albany, and consistently across the country, is outside infiltrators who are coming in and they’re mingling and mixing in with the good people who genuinely want to have this conversation,” Hawkins said during an interview with TALK1300.
Hawkins and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced 11 arrests from Monday night’s riots, which followed hours of peaceful protests throughout the day. Hawkins said five of the nine people arrested for looting were from outside of Albany.
“This was a protest that began peacefully here then wound its way through the city, still peacefully,” Sheehan said. “Over the course of hours, the police chief and other officers engaged with the protesters, knelt with the protesters and wanted to ensure that we were able to have a peaceful demonstration.”
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said he stood with peaceful protesters.
But, he added: “Don’t listen to a white politician telling you how to feel,” urging people to listen to remarks made by Floyd’s brother, Terrance, while addressing demonstrators in Minneapolis on Monday.
The protests come amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities.
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen called racism a public health threat and said the county needs to continue to address how systemic racism has manifested itself in health care in poor neighborhoods, leading to disparities among residents.
“We know we can improve, and we still have a long way to go, and the actions of the last week have shown me that in a way that nothing else has,” Whalen said.
During the day on Tuesday, Albany was relatively quiet, according to social media activity.
Protesters gathered in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday afternoon, holding signs featuring sayings like “No racist beliefs” and participating in chants. The Saratoga Springs Police Department later shared a photo from Monday of protesters and officers kneeling together in a moment of silence for Floyd.
Troy Mayor Patrick Madden appeared on WAMC and said he is meeting with protest organizers and making sure “objectives are mutual” for a Sunday protest in Troy and possibly another on Wednesday..
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford, who knelt with protesters on Sunday as a sign of solidarity, penned a column for NBC News and said he would “like all protesters to know that their voices were heard” during Sunday’s protest.
Notices for additional protests are circulating are social media, with Glens Falls and Lake George events scheduled for noon on Friday, a Troy vigil scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday and a Clifton Park protest scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m.