ALBANY — Police ended a week-long encampment of anti-brutality protesters outside the department’s South Station Thursday, as authorities removed tents and their contents and led protesters from the scene in handcuffs.
Prior to those actions, police gave the group 15 minutes to disperse.
Protests began last week, after an altercation between demonstrators and officers in a Black Lives Matter protest.
After the encampment was destroyed, dozens of officers in riot gear formed a wall at two locations around the department on Arch Street.
Members of the State Police and Albany County Sheriff’s Office stood with them.
The officers were silent as protesters angrily confronted them and hurled insults.
Protesters square off against Albany police officers during a confrontation near the South Side Police Station on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER
In response, a protester told a white officer, “You definitely call your superior a [n-word] when you’re at home.” She then asked the officer what part of her skull did he want to crack open.
In a statement, Police Chief Eric Hawkins said it was time to end the unlawful occupation.
“For several days,” Hawkins said, “protesters have occupied the roadway in front of the South Station. The Albany Police Department, in efforts to support the freedom of expression and to de-escalate a tense situation, did not interfere with this unlawful occupation.
Chandler Hickenbottom of Saratoga Springs pointing at Albany PD in riot gear after they broke up occupation of South Station today. pic.twitter.com/BP64pRV8a9
— Brian Lee (@bleeschenectady) April 22, 2021
“We have heard the grievances of the protesters loud and clear. We have also heard the concerns from members of that neighborhood as well as officers and non-sworn staff who serve from the South Station. For public safety purposes, it is time to end this unlawful occupation.
“Protesters may continue to peacefully demonstrate, but they must do so in a space that is safe and lawful.”
Alice Green, a civil rights advocate and director of the Center for Law and Justice, said the police should have found a better way.
“That was terrible to give them 15 minutes to move,” Green said. “Here we [have] been working all this time to improve relationships, and they do crazy things that totally destroy it.
“We had a perfect opportunity to come up with a plan that would reinvent policing, and the city refused to do it. They haven’t done it. We have no way of doing it now because they basically shut the doors.”
Steven Negron, a first-time candidate for Albany’s Common Council, called the police’s actions complete nonsense.
“Honestly, I pulled up to the scene and I was very angry with everything, just because, protesters have been out here for six days, and this department literally made zero attempts to have any communications with them.
“And then just to come out here today and give them 15 minutes, destroy all their personal property, destroyed my friend’s medication,” Negron said. “The community donated all this stuff.”
Negron said the police’s treatment of the encampment was “a spit in the face to the community, and to the city,” and a failure in leadership.
“I pretty much pulled up to the scene because I wanted to have a conversation with whoever made this decision,” Negron said, calling it a further bridge between the community and police.
Chandler Hickenbottom, 25, of Saratoga Springs, said she’s among a coalition of organizers of the encampment.
“We decided that we were going to do a protest and an occupy, and we came up with demands,” she said. “We wanted our demands met and we were gonna stay here until our demands were met.”
Hickenbottom said the protesters received donations from friends and community members from all over the Capital Region.
But she said she left the encampment for a time Thursday to have her teeth checked out from what she said was a prior assault by police.
“I came back, and this is what I come to,” Hickenbottom said as she watched a garbage truck drive off with contents of the encampment.
“I have several autoimmune diseases. I have a lot of medicine that’s in there, that’s really expensive,” she said, crying.
“They burned a lot of important things in there,” Hickenbottom said, noting that the group wanted to donate unused food and hygiene and feminine products.
“These people have continuously re-traumatized us at this station,” she said.
In a statement, New York Civil Liberties Union director of chapters Caroline Nagy denounced the police action.
“There is no excuse for police violence against protesters anywhere in New York state,” Nagy said.
“Protests calling for an end to police brutality against Black New Yorkers should never result in more police brutality,” she continued.
“Members of Albany law enforcement are instigating violence while reportedly concealing their identification badges,” Nagy said. “They are deploying weapons like tear gas on protesters. This is neither accountability nor justice, and shows that the police are deliberately refusing to police themselves.”
At 8 p.m. Thursday, a spokesman for the Albany Police Department tweeted that eight individuals were arrested and face various charges ranging from disorderly conduct, obstruction of governmental administration and riot, second degree. Several individuals were sent to the Albany County Jail while five others were released on appearance tickets and will appear in court at a later date.
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