SCHENECTADY — A small group of demonstrators gathered outside of The Daily Gazette on Thursday to protest the publication of a controversial cartoon earlier this week.
Thomas Kennedy said the syndicated cartoon depicting a white police officer shooting a Black man in the back was “disrespectful” and “disgusting.”
“My phone rang off the hook — it was a gut punch,” said Kennedy, a retired state correction officer.
Criticism of The Daily Gazette mounted following the publication of the cartoon on Monday, drawing condemnation from police leaders and local officials, including the Glenville Town Board and Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo.
The cartoon was reference to a Kenosha, Wis., police officer shooting Jacob Blake in the back Aug. 23.
Ten protestors waved flags and signs on Thursday evening, drawing honks of support from motorists navigating rush hour traffic on Maxon Road Extension (and the occasional obscenity).
Law enforcement gets a bad rap, said Tom Cavanagh of Schenectady, who said protestors should be instead focusing attention on rising crime in many U.S. cities.
“There are thousands of deaths in Democratic cities run by Democratic mayors,” Cavanagh said.
The protest was organized by a loose coalition of conservative grassroots groups who are increasingly working together as the nation continues to navigate a reckoning on racism and police brutality, including the Schenectady-based Blue Lives Matter of Upstate New York and Liberty Bell Alliance 76, a Coeymans-based group.
The Daily Gazette stands by the cartoon, with editor Miles Reed calling it a “valid commentary on something very real that’s happening in America today.”
“It is not our goal to upset people or to disparage good police officers or those who support them, but to reflect what some in our community are feeling,” said Reed, noting the newspaper has been criticized before for publishing cartoons with a point of view more favorable to police.
Reed and Daily Gazette publisher and president John DeAugustine chatted with attendees on Thursday, a measure Kennedy said he appreciated.
“[Reed] is here to hear our conversations and that’s what you want in a local newspaper,” Kennedy said.
Will Tryon lashed the cartoon as one designed to stoke racial diversion and will not further the type of productive discourse that is required to move the nation forward.
Tryon attended a Blues Lives Matter event in Albany last month, and a photo appearing in the Daily Gazette showed him with his arm outstretched towards Lukee Forbes, a prominent Blacks Lives Matter activist.
It was a tense moment, Tryon acknowledged.
But now he and Forbes have an ongoing dialogue via text message, he said.
“People need to start talking because going out and screaming in each others’ faces is not doing anything,” Tryon said. “We have to unify and fix our problems, and it’s a little give and take on both sides.”