AG investigating alleged misuse of power by Saratoga Springs PD against BLM activists

Protestors with 'All of Us' march in Saratoga Springs, shutting down Congress Street and Broadway during a protest on July 1.
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Protestors with 'All of Us' march in Saratoga Springs, shutting down Congress Street and Broadway during a protest on July 1.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Ongoing allegations of civil rights violations and misuse of power by city police against Black Lives Matter activists are being investigated by the state attorney general’s office, a spokeswoman for that office said Monday.

Citing the investigation, AG spokeswoman Morgan Rubin declined to provide additional information, including when the investigation commenced and at whose request was it launched.

Saratoga Springs Police Department did not respond to news that the Attorney General’s office is investigating the department.

Mayor Meg Kelly and Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, whose terms are ending next month, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

City police were under scrutiny well before charging more than a dozen protesters on warrants for minor violations stemming from a July protest during which demonstrators marched down Broadway and other parts of downtown, chanting “shut it down,” eventually blocking traffic.

Critics said arresting the protesters six weeks after the incident was a clear show of retaliation.

Saratoga Springs police subsequently denied protesters access to fellow demonstrators’ court proceedings in September, which also placed authorities in a negative light.

In addition, a Saratoga Springs woman and her boyfriend who attended the BLM protest in July said they were stopped by city police without cause after the demonstration.

Police have said the couple was stopped after officers observed someone making multiple trips back and forth to the car, which the police deemed potentially suspicious behavior.

In July 2020, law enforcement used an armored vehicle and pepper spray bullets on BLM protesters as they blocked Broadway in a non-violent demonstration.

Lexis Figuereo, a lead organizer of protests in Saratoga Springs who was charged on a warrant from the July protest, referred to the AG’s investigation as a “small win” for local activists.

As a result of a July protest this year, Figuereo was arrested by Saratoga County sheriff’s deputies in Malta on Aug. 31 on a warrant for disorderly conduct. The activist was en route to a college class.

Figuereo said he’s “very happy, and very surprised that we actually – maybe – have a chance of having some accountability for the police and their wrongdoings – that they’ve been doing to us for the last 17 months.”

Figuereo said AG investigators asked him and two other activists to provide a timeline of their interactions with city police, including videos, photographs and media accounts.

In September, a handful of Black Lives Matter supporters attempted to show support for fellow demonstrators but were barred from accessing the courtroom by Saratoga Springs police officers, despite a strong assumption of public access to court proceedings embedded in state and federal law.

The state court system later denounced the barring of access, and city police apologized.

Figuereo said the attention from the AG office, support from the New York Civil Liberties Union, and city voters electing a new public safety commissioner amid a slew of Democrats for city council bodes well for police reform and positive changes in the community without backlash and pushback from city officials and police.

“The police won’t be able to run around doing whatever they want to us,” he said. “They are being looked at and held accountable for what they’re doing.”

Public Safety Commissioner-elect James Montagnino said he was aware of the AG investigation.

“Exactly what the contours of the AG’s investigation are, I don’t know, and so I can’t say much about that, other than certainly if the probe should extend after Jan. 1, my administration would cooperate completely with the Attorney General’s Offices. That goes without saying.”

Montagnino called the interaction between protesters and city police a “complicated situation” because of its many layers.

Montagnino said he had already spoken with the police union about what he said is the need for a clear policy calling for the use of summonses for petty offenses.

“The disorderly conduct that many of those people were charged with is not even a crime,” Montagnino said. “It’s just a violation. It doesn’t involve fingerprinting. It doesn’t give a person a criminal record if they’re convicted of it. The record of the proceedings is sealed.”

“So there’s really very little justification for a full-blown custodial arrest, and I understand that one of those protesters actually spent  – I was told – 14 hours in lockup prior to being brought before a judge for arraignment.”

The commissioner juxtaposed the protesters’ disorderly conduct offenses with the man who accepted criminal responsibility for the deaths of 20 people in the Schoharie limousine crash case.

“That individual was allowed to surrender with his lawyer and didn’t spend 10 minutes in custody,” Montagnino said. “When you compare that with someone who has allegedly committed a petty offense, spending a night in jail, there’s obviously some questions surrounding that.”

Meanwhile, Figuereo said Saratoga Springs activists would also like the AG to investigate the 2014 death of Darryl Mount Jr., which is largely what they have been protesting about in the first place.

Mount, a 21-year-old biracial man, died after a nine-month coma that followed a police chase that ended in a construction zone. Police said they chased Mount after witnessing him slam a woman’s head into a brick wall in downtown Saratoga Springs.

They said he was injured in a fall from scaffolding.

Regardless of the AG office’s investigation of their interactions with protesters, Figuereo said, “We’re still gonna continue to fight for Darryl Mount and fight for equity, justice and inclusivity in Saratoga Springs.”

Figuereo said the AG investigators also asked him about other jurisdictions, including his participation in an occupation in Albany on April 14 that led to his arrest, which the activist referred to as “trumped-up charges” against himself and other activists.

In the Albany case, Figuereo was charged with three counts of attempted assault, accused of throwing bottles at police outside of Albany Police Department’s South Station during the occupation.

Figuereo said AG investigators were also interested in developments in Schenectady, particularly warrant charges that were levied against two BLM activists for their use of explicit language during a city event on Aug. 26, as well as two protesters who were charged with defacing Schenectady police headquarters with chalk in April.

The chalk case, which prompted the Police Department to put temporary fencing around the building’s entrance in April, has since been resolved with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, meaning their cases would be withdrawn for a period of months before dismissing the charges if the defendants aren’t arrested again.

A defense lawyer for many of the Saratoga Springs demonstrators has also said those cases were likely headed for adjournments in contemplation of dismissal.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

2 Comments
William Marincic November 16, 2021
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Figueroa said, “The police won’t be able to run around doing whatever they want to us,” he said. “They are being looked at and held accountable for what they’re doing.”

Let me ask you, who do you think you are that you can just block the streets, stop people from going to their jobs, stop people from going to their appointments, stop people from going to the hospital or anywhere else, what gives you the right to block traffic and stopping people from going about their business? Play stupid games when stupid prizes.

William Marincic November 16, 2021
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Everyone needs to remember when they vote in 2022 that parents are labeled domestic terrorists and BLM and antifa are not.