GLENS FALLS — More than 1,000 people, the vast majority of them young and white, marched through the middle of Glens Falls Friday in the latest in an ongoing series of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The long line of people marching and chanting along a mile of Glen Street between City Park and Crandall Park was boisterous but peaceful, with many people carrying signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and other slogans.
The event remained peaceful despite fears that a local group of conservative activists might hold a counter-demonstration. If any representatives of the group calling themselves the North Country Deplorables was present, they did not show themselves. The group has gotten into confrontations in the past with progressive groups rallying in Glens Falls.
Organizers said the event, which concluded with two hours of speakers talking about social justice issues at the band stage in Crandall Park, drew a far bigger crowd than they anticipated.
“I was not expecting this. This is amazing,” said Marissa Ray of South Glens Falls, a college student and one of the organizers. “It is so meaningful that this is happening in a predominantly white area, and that is why we need to speak out.”
Officers from the Glens Falls Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Department, State Park Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation were all on hand, but kept a low profile except when police cars with lights on were escorting the march. There were no reports of arrests, and city leaders appeared supportive – Glens Falls Mayor Daniel Hall was among the event’s speakers.
“Let us all commit to love one another and commit to the things that unite us regardless of race, creed or color,” Hall told the crowd before the march started.
The rally – an enormous one for a city whose total population is only about 15,000 – is an example of the demonstrations that have occurred mostly peacefully in small cities across the country, even as large cities have been rocked by confrontations between demonstrators and police, and some cities have seen extensive post-protest vandalism.
In the Capital Region alone, there have been peaceful protests in Saratoga Springs, Johnstown, Gloversville and Schenectady, as well as large and confrontational demonstrations in Albany. More protests and demonstrations are expected in the coming days.
All have arisen since the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd died after a white police officer, who has since been arrested, put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Protesters say it is just the latest example in a long history of police violence against minorities.
“We’ve come today to honor the memory of George Floyd and so many men and women of color who have lost their lives because of policy brutality,” said the Rev. Leonard Oates of Glens Falls, who is black.
Jabes Prado, a person of color who has lived in Glens Falls for 25 years and been an activist, urged, “We’ve got to make sure the cops all know they can’t hurt us too,” he told the crowd. “We are all the same.”
Afterward Prado said he was heartened by the large show of support, and he thanked the organizers, four young white women.
“I means a lot to me,” he said after addressing the crowd through a bullhorn. “I’ve tried to be an activist and I couldn’t get the community together like this. It took four white women to do this, and I’m proud of them, but we need to do more.”
One of the organizers, Brooke Seymour, said the rally was intended to show that the Black Lives Matter movement has strong support even in mostly white communities.
“We’re doing this in a predominantly white community because it shows we have the power to nominate electors who will bring pro-black policies and priorities,” she said in an interview.
“We should not have to be hear to say black lives matter. All lives should matter,” Seymour said when she addressed the crowd.
Several political candidates also spoke, including state Senate candidate Thearse McCalmon of Schenectady, Assembly candidate Joe Seeman, and Tedra Cobb, the Democratic challenger to Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga.
“I am here to tell our friends, our neighbors, our legislators, that black lives matter,” said Cobb, whose candidacy has received some national attention since Stefanik has become one of President Donald Trump’s strongest defenders.
Friday’s protest is a prelude to numerous additional protests in the region planned for this Sunday. Protests or marches are expected in Troy, Saratoga Springs, Amsterdam and Niskayuna.
Saratoga Against Brutality is organizing a protest at 1 p.m. Sunday starting at High Rock Park, while Amsterdam’s Youth for Change is hosting a protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at 1 p.m. at the south side of the Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge.
Additionally, a 2 p.m. vigil and march — organized by Justice for Dahmeek — will be held at Troy’s Riverfront Park. At that same time, a rally is planned to be held at Niskayuna Town Hall.
Brenton Blanchet contributed to this story.