Schenectady activists face charges connected to August event

Activists yell at Schenectady police chief Eric Clifford at a community outreach event on Aug. 26.

Activists yell at Schenectady police chief Eric Clifford at a community outreach event on Aug. 26.

SCHENECTADY – Two Black Lives Matters activists who converged on an Aug. 26 community event and angrily confronted police and the mayor weren’t arrested at the time because authorities “did not want to further disrupt the event that they had already disrupted, especially with children and families looking on,” Officer Patrick Irwin, a department spokesman, said Wednesday.

Instead, Mikayla Foster, 22, and Shaqueena Charles, 29, were asked to turn themselves in on charges of disorderly and endangering the welfare of a child, “based on their actions during the event,” Irwin said.

Foster couldn’t be reached, but according to social media, the two intend to turn themselves in Thursday.

Irwin said the police’s detective division launched an investigation and filed for a warrant with the court.

The duo’s actions, which had been recorded live and posted on social media by Foster, but have since been removed, “speak for themselves,” Irwin said.

Letters were sent to Foster and Charles on Sept. 13. As per usual, defendants are asked to appear in court two weeks later, Irwin said.

During the event in the parking lot of Trustco Bank at State Street and Brandywine Avenue, police officers were handing out bicycle helmets to schoolchildren when the activists from vehicles accused local law enforcement of murder and hurled obscenities.

Once the protesters arrived on foot, many of them pulled out cellphones to record themselves angrily confront officers, including Police Chief Eric Clifford and Mayor Gary McCarthy.

The city put on the event for police to engage with the public, as suggested during the leadup to the city’s police reform and reinvention plan.

Members of the Fire Department, code enforcement, the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department, representatives of MVP Health Care and Trustco Bank, and new city schools superintendent Anibal Soler, Jr. also attended to answer questions from the public.

Police had said residents could file complaints during the event, and the BLM protesters leveraged the opportunity, demanding to know how to file one about what they said was the police’s “murder” of Andrew Kearse.

Kearse succumbed to heart failure after being apprehended by Schenectady police officers in May 2017, according to an autopsy.

The officer involved in the case, Mark Weekes, was the subject of a grand jury investigation because he drove Kearse to the police station after the arrest. Kearse was unconscious upon arrival at the station and never regained consciousness.

The grand jury declined to file charges against Weekes.

Foster had told a reporter on the day of the event they were upset about being arrested earlier this year for writing messages in washable chalk outside the Police Department during a BLM protest.

Foster claimed it was law enforcement’s attempt at trying to set precedent for protesters in Schenectady.

Foster also took issue with police and city officials not showing up to a back-to-school event by the Be A Leader youth group held earlier that day. 

The activists indicated on social media that they were turning themselves in Thursday morning.

It’s uncertain how the latest looming charges will impact the case against Foster for third-degree criminal tampering, a Class B misdemeanor, in connection with an April 13 protest outside the police station.

That charge had been adjourned in contemplation of dismissal on June 9, and Foster and a co-defendant’s records would have been sealed in December if they aren’t arrested over the next six months.

In that incident, Foster was involved in the protest that led to both damage and tampering with city property at 531 Liberty St. on April 13, police said.

The protest in Schenectady, as well as an Albany protest that started the next day, concerned the police shooting death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in Minnesota.

During the protest and chalking incident, a glass panel on a door at the Schenectady station was broken.

Some of the chalk-written messages read: “We won’t forget,” “Stop killing us,” “Blood is on your hands,” and “Cops and klan are hand-in-hand.”

During a press conference after their arrests, Foster said, “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.”

As a result of that incident, police had put up temporary fencing around the Police Department. It was removed in June.

Clifford has said he is not against peaceful protests, but he said his preference is those who protest policing request to meet to discuss their grievances.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

One Comment

William Marincic

I saw the video and it speaks for itself. The judge should be forced to watch the video before sentencing so that they will get the maximum.

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