Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter protesters took to downtown Canajoharie Saturday afternoon, occupying all four corners of Wagner Square exchanging words — both heated and calm, sometimes with megaphones and sometimes in person.
Several times supporters on either side made their way across the street to engage in peaceful conversations regarding their beliefs and goals.
But there was also acrimony.
About halfway through the four-hour protests Canajoharie business owner Maryann Pietromonaco told Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden that she wanted to press harassment charges against Black Lives Matter protester Heather Murphy — the two having engaged in several megaphone interactions.
Likewise, Murphy told MacFadden the she wanted to press harassment charges against Pietromonaco. “Maryann just fuels hate. She’s personally attacked me.”
Later, MacFadden would not say if any charges had been pressed, saying it was an open investigation.
“I think it’s important to deliver the message to these types of people that we do believe that blue lives matter,” Murphy said. “My uncle is a retired police chief … my brothers were all military police in the Army. I actually believe that all lives matter, which is why I’m saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ because their lives are in danger, and that’s what we’ve got to talk about.”
According to several witnesses, earlier in the day a Canajoharie business owner came out of his store and approached Black Lives Matter protesters in an aggressive fashion. At that point, Chief MacFadden put himself between the man and the protesters. The business owner allegedly shoved MacFadden several times.
MacFadden said the business owner was simply “angry about the noise — not about the message of either [group] —“just about the noise.” He said no charges are being pressed against the man. “We moved him back and sent him home.”
Jessica Daniels, one of the BLM protest organizers, issued appreciation to MacFadden for protecting protesters. “We’re not against the police. We’re against systemic racism, police brutality and silence in the face of it.”
MacFadden said his goal Saturday afternoon — with help from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police— was to ensure “a peaceful protest.”
“Everybody has the right to freedom of speech and I will support that entirely. As long as the roads are not stopped and sidewalks are not blocked and property is not damaged, [both groups] can protest as much as they wish.”
MacFadden said he didn’t witness any racist language coming from either side Saturday.
A Back the Blue protester who wouldn’t give her name expressed her views: “If we don’t have police, that means more murders, more killing, more stealing — thugs can break in your houses and we have nobody to help us. The police are here to help us, so defunding the police doesn’t make any sense.”
Canajoharie business owner Jim Sancho said his main goal in supporting BLM Saturday was to take a stand against hatred.
Back the Blue protester Vicky M. said “all live matter. That’s why I’m here. I support the police and I want law and order in our country. I wish all the hate would stop, period. Then I think our country would be better
She George Floyd’s death while in custody of Minneapolis police “broke my heart and I couldn’t sleep for weeks.” She said she believes there are bad people in every profession. “There’s bad doctors, there’s bad lawyers. We can’t penalize everybody for one bad cop. We can’t destroy our country for one bad cop. We have to come together. I don’t hate anybody. I’m far from racist … let’s love one another.”