Two Black Lives Matter activists turned themselves in Thursday on misdemeanor charges stemming from a verbal confrontation with police during an Aug. 26 community event, and afterward accused local law enforcement of trying to silence the local movement.
Following their arraignment Thursday, 22-year-old Mikayla Foster and 29-year old Shaqueena Charles stood outside the Police Department during a “speak out” that accused the agency of taking part in a coordinated, regional effort to silence Black activists.
“We are actively being targeted and we acknowledge that, so our safety is our No. 1 priority,” Foster said, speaking into a megaphone.
Foster told about three dozen onlookers that any harm that came the group’s way would be a direct result of being targeted by police.
Charles, who described herself as an activist and mother of two, said it was disheartening and traumatizing to continually have to tell white people how much she’s affected by what she calls an oppressive system.
Speaking to what she said were false charges, Charles said: “I need help. I need y’all to stand up. I need everybody to keep coming [to BLM demonstrations] and keep on saying this is wrong.”
Foster and Charles made their remarks after a brief court hearing before Judge Carl Falatico, at which they pleaded not guilty. They stood outside for a time talking to their defense lawyer, Adriel Colon-Casiano, before holding a press conference.
Foster and Charles turned themselves in on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and disorderly conduct.
According to a police report on the charges by written by Detective Sgt. Tom Harrigan, Foster and Charles used obscene and abusive language toward two adults while in the presence of a 7-year-old child.
The report concerning the child endangerment charge indicated the duo called a woman “stupid bitch,” “honky bitch,” and used an expletive in the presence of the child, who was “traumatized during the incident, and his mother left due to concern for their safety,” the police narrative read.
The disorderly charges stem from Foster and Charles’ allegedly causing “public inconvenience and alarm” with their use of terms such as “suck a d-.”
Also speaking was Samira Sangare, a Saratoga Springs activist who has urged that city’s leadership to drop charges against a litany of fellow protesters facing charges for disorderly conduct and unlawful imprisonment connected to a July 14 Saratoga Springs protest that blocked traffic on Broadway.
Sangare said Saratoga Springs BLM would not participate in proposed mediation with city officials until all protest-related charges were dropped.
“These are bulls—, made up charges,” Sangare said of being charged two months after the protest in question.
“Just like Mikayla said,” Sangare continued, “activists and protesters are being targeted around the Capital Region. They are literally having coordinated efforts to silence us, to scare us and to stop our movement, and the only reason being is because we tell the truth.”
Foster said the Black Abolitionists Directive, a Schenectady-based regional coalition and network of different organizers, had “linked trees” for their legal fees and organizing supplies.
While the Saratoga Springs activists decried what they claim was the police murder of Darryl Mount in Saratoga, the Schenectady activists accused Schenectady police of being responsible for killing Andrew Kearse.
“You have blood on your hands,” said Schenectady activist Casey Charles.
Kearse died in the custody of the Schenectady Police Department in 2017. Kearse, according to an autopsy, succumbed to heart failure after being apprehended by Schenectady police officers in May 2017. A police officer was the subject of the grand jury investigation in the incident. A grand jury declined to file charges against the officer.
In Saratoga Springs eight years ago, Mount, a 21-year-old biracial man, suffered fatal injuries while fleeing from police, who said Mount was assaulting his girlfriend (which she has since denied).
Police have said they found Mount unconscious after he fell from scaffolding near where the Northshire Bookstore now stands on Broadway. But Mount’s family and racial justice activists, who have sought to highlight his case in recent years, have questioned the police story, arguing his injuries, which left him in a coma for nine months before he died in May 2014, were not consistent with a fall.
Activists for more than a year have repeatedly called for an independent investigation into Mount’s death.
Kasey Charles and Foster, who both identify as transgender and Black, were charged on warrants in April for writing messages in washable chalk outside the Police Department.
Foster spoke of spending a night in the County Jail while being forced to deal with what Foster said was “blatant racism and transphobia.”
On arrival, Foster said two officers had said they had been waiting for the moment.
“You tell me who’s not being targeted,” Foster told the crowd.
Foster called the transphobia that was observed in jail “one of the main tools of white supremacy.”