On a day when ice cream cones, shakes and sundaes should have meant business for Bumpy’s Polar Freeze at 2013 State St., its business came to a screeching halt caused by a protest Sunday afternoon.
More than 200 protesters stood in front of the business and extended into the middle of State Street from 4 to 6 p.m. as traffic was rerouted from the area by the Niskayuna Police Department. The groups turned away all but three customers to the ice cream establishment’s walk-up windows.
The day did not get better for its embattled owner, David Elmendorf, 35, as three Black male employees quit their jobs late in the afternoon after receiving enticement from the protesters in the form of cash and promised jobs.
The protest stems from images of text messages purportedly sent by Elmendorf.
In the text messages, Elmendorf allegedly used racial slurs and, and in one message wrote, “I don’t hire Black people.”
“We’re shutting Bumpy’s down, we are disrupting peace and business as usual,” All of Us organizer Mikayla Foster, 21, of Schenectady said. “You will not be allowed to operate a business that directly impacts Black and brown people in a negative way and then think that you are going to be able to just continue life like that.”
The gathered crowd saw a variety of speakers take to the available megaphone and talk about racism in the community outside the iron fence of Bumpy’s.
Many speakers spoke of what they perceive has emanated from the location, including pointing out flags atop the corner shop referencing Blue Lives Matter that are a show of support for law enforcement and police departments.
Shortly after the first hour of speakers and chants, protesters moved to the inside iron fence and onto the concourse in front of the two available walk-up windows. From there protesters then took a seat and flooded the entire front entrance area.
Their message continued as the protesters literally put their money where their mouth was, gathering up a sizable donation to offer the employees of Bumpy’s to quit their job, be paid for their day and with a promise of other immediate jobs in the community.
Three Black males left the back of the location, were handed more than $250 in cash each from the collection and gave their information to Shawnta Rivas, who helped facilitate the new positions.
“Members of the community came here and we realized that this is about Black lives, young men of color working in this establishment and obviously you have to feel uncomfortable if this place is associated with a racist owner, than I think that it’s only right when you ask people to leave you provide them with another opportunity and the people in the community showed up and did that,” Damonni Farley said.
Shameil McCoy, 23, of Schenectady. spent less than one day at Bumpy’s before taking the available cash and new job.
“Another job, so hopefully this job pays me more money,” McCoy said. “An opportunity to not stay in the streets … it’s an opportunity.”
Messiah Anderson, 24, of Schenectady also took part in Sunday’s walkout.
“I just got an application today and [they] told me to come in,” Anderson said. “They hired me on the spot and my bro was there. I was just going to come up here and get a job.
“Then all of this happened, so me and my bro made a collective decision to leave this place.”
It was the strangest first day of work Anderson has ever had.
“It was kind of weird, but everything happens for a reason,” Anderson said. “If the establishment is not wanted by a community, you have to go with your better judgment.”
Elmendorf, the owner of Bumpy’s, was arrested by city police on Wednesday, June 24, on a charge of obstructing government administration according to County Attorney Christopher Gardner in an early Gazette report. Elmendorf was released without bail pending a future City Court appearance.
In the report, Gardner said Elmendorf faces two citations under Public Health Law for operating without a Health Department authorization since May 9, and not addressing a code violation from last fall.
The Bumpy’s property has been posted with a Department of Health violation notice according to Gardner, and Elmendorf has removed it and continued to operate the business.
“Bumpy’s has not been authorized to reopen,” Schenectady County Director of Public Relations Erin Roberts confirmed in an email to The Daily Gazette.
“The order to cease operations is still in effect.
“Any operation would be in violation of the Public Health Order and subject to additional fines.”
On Friday, Gardner sent a letter to the state Attorney General’s office requesting an investigation of possible civil rights violations by Elmendorf stemming from the images that circulated of the purported text messages.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.