SCHENECTADY & ALBANY – A Schenectady community activist has been arrested in last week’s chalk defacing of the Schenectady police station, Schenectady police said on Friday.
Mikayla Foster, 22, was charged Thursday after being taken into custody as an Albany Black Lives Matter protest encampment was being broken up.
Foster and Nikiya Charles, 25, also of Schenectady, were each charged by Schenectady police with third-degree criminal tampering, a Class B misdemeanor, in connection with an April 13 protest outside the station. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine. Charles is also known as Kasey Charles.
Foster, speaking outside the police station on Liberty Street Friday morning, acknowledged having chalked the building, but Foster said the chalk was water-soluble and was removed from the building within eight minutes after she wrote it.
The police station’s exterior entrance has since been surrounded by a chain-link fence. On Friday morning, about 15 people stood outside the fence in a chilly breeze and denounced what happened in Albany Thursday night, when police forcefully broke up a street encampment of protesters.
Foster reported being brought to Schenectady immediately after being arrested for disorderly conduct at the Albany encampment and spent Thursday night “in a cage” at the Schenectady County Jail. Foster was released early Friday morning.
“If we are arresting peaceful protesters for putting washable chalk on a building meant to serve the community, then I don’t know what to say,” Foster said. “I’m very well-known for having a lot to say, and I’m speechless.” Foster nevertheless spoke for nearly a half-hour about racism and policing before stepping away from press conference microphones, breaking down sobbing, and being encircled by friends and supporters.
Later Friday, city police issued a statement in which they said Foster and Charles were taken into custody after Albany police alerted them that two people arrested at the encampment faced outstanding Schenectady arrest warrants. “The warrants were issued after video evidence showed these individuals were involved in the incident that led to both damage and tampering with city property at 531 Liberty St. on April 13,” the statement said.
The protest in Schenectady on April 13, as well as the Albany protest that started the next day, were over the police shooting death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in Minnesota.
During the April 13 protest, in addition to the chalking, a glass panel on a door at the Schenectady station was broken. Some of the messages said, “We won’t forget,” “Stop killing us,” “Blood is on your hands,” “Cops and klan are hand-in-hand.” Until now, there had been no arrests.
Schenectady police said letters were sent to both Foster and Charles advising them of the warrants and asking them to turn themselves in. After their arrests in Albany, Foster and Charles were turned over to Schenectady police around 5:30 p.m. While Foster was jailed most of the night, police said both were released after processing, and will appear later in Schenectady City Court.
Foster, who is Black, is an organizer of the local justice group All of Us, and has been prominent at Black Lives Matter and social justice protests in the Capital Region over the last year.
On Friday, there were no police officers visible outside the building while protesters spoke. The protest took place the day after the state Attorney General’s Office found that Schenectady officers were justified in the March 2020 shooting death of a Hamilton Hill man because they believed he was armed; the weapon turned out to be a pellet pistol. But the AG’s report also said the city needs to develop better responses to situations involving people in mental health crises.
Albany police, meanwhile, on Friday released the identities of nine people arrested as the street encampment was being broken up. They include three people from Schenectady: Foster; Charles; and Brandon Brown, 21. Each was charged with disorderly conduct.
Brown also was charged with second-degree riot, obstructing government administration and unlawful assembly in connection with the April 14 protest outside Albany’s South Station that led to the six-day protest encampment. Alexis Figuereo, 34, of Saratoga Springs, also faces those charges.
Foster said that when Albany police broke up the encampment, a cellphone was knocked from Foster’s own hand and a mask removed while an irritant gas was being used. Albany police have said they didn’t use tear gas, and that nobody was injured.
On Thursday, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said police support peaceful and lawful protests, but the six-day encampment was unlawful because it was blocking a public street. The city had received complaints, including from the neighboring City Rescue Mission, about the conduct of protesters and having access blocked due to the encampment, Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s office said on Friday.
Police had taken no previous action against the protesters, who were demanding firing of an officer, prior to giving them 15 minutes to leave the area Thursday afternoon. Police then moved in force, and tents, food and other protester belongings were hauled away. A barricaded area was set aside for remaining protesters, and some people were there on Friday afternoon, according to broadcast and social media reports.
Also Friday, Albany City Auditor Darcy Applyrs and six Albany City Council members, all Democrats, issued a statement saying the police response had damaged community relations. They called the police actions “disheartening and overly aggressive. While we respect APD’s duty to prioritize public safety, we strongly denounce the approach they used.”
All of Us co-founder Jamaica Miles of Schenectady, who addressed the protesters in Albany Thursday night and also spoke at the Schenectady police station on Friday, said Black Lives Matter and All of Us activism will continue as long as what they perceive as police misconduct continues.
“We will be united. We will be the same constant presence we were in 2020, and we will increase that constant presence,” said Miles, who is a candidate for the Schenectady school board.
Updated 4:21 p.m. May 4, 2021
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Young n dumb!! Think they know it all!
These protesters think they can do whatever they want and get away with its.Ms.Foster justifys writing on the police station because the chalk was washable are you kidding me you wrote all kinds of nasty things about police calling them murderers and all your other rhetoric you wrote on the wall.How would they like it if someone came to their house and wrote all kinds of racial slurs and nasty things about them on the walls of their house would that be okay?No it wouldn’t be ok.And it’s not ok for for protesters to do.When it gets to that level the peaceful protesters are now rioters.You are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites you act like a bunch of thugs and do horrible things to individual’s that u wouldn’t want anyone to do or stay to you but you thinks it’s ok for u to do the things you do.Your part of the problem not the solution.Its ok for your group to be disrespectful and racist.Your group wants change from everyone else but you protesters are not willing to change u just want to keep the hate going .Take a long look at Yourselves And see who is the real racists
Why does the Gazette and other news organizations give these wanna be protesters a platform? They are anti-police, pro crime and they have nothing of value to add to anything. Maybe they should work with their own communities to stop the crime, maybe should they should tell the people in their own communities to stop resisting arrest. Maybe they should promote people in their community to be responsible parents and not leaving households to a single mother. There’s a lot they can do that would help their community and they are not doing it.
Chalk. People in power abuse and murder citizens, and we’re arresting people for chalk.
It’s called defacing public property and it is a criminal offense. If they come to your house and write offensive things all over your walls your opinion might change.
First of all they didn’t just write on the building they also broke the glass on the front door entering our lobby.So u think it’s ok for individual’s to write rehetoric on the building and break glass doors and u think they should not be arrested.I bet if that happened at your house u would be the first one to call the police the ones u just accused of being murderers.
What do Humans do with or without the Power of Money being involved?
What does that mean? I’m not getting your comment
It was written to make one think.
All the Good and All the Bad!
All the Stupid Things We as Humans do!
Very Long list either way..
I wonder which list would be the longest?
Although, I agree no one has the right to chalk up anyone’s house or business.
Right to Protest! Yes! Peaceful and No Graffiti or destruction!