Saratoga BLM leader vows to put pressure on city Dems after quiet year

Saratoga BLM leader Lexis Figuereo of Saratoga Springs speaks outside Saratoga Springs City Hall and asks for change in the city on Tuesday

Saratoga BLM leader Lexis Figuereo of Saratoga Springs speaks outside Saratoga Springs City Hall and asks for change in the city on Tuesday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A Spa City social justice leader has vowed to mount pressure on city administration in the months ahead after what he considers to be a disappointing year for a slate of elected first-term Democrats.

“It was all smiles and it was making change then, but we knew better,” said Lexis Figuereo, executive director of Saratoga BLM, about the 2021 election. “There’s always a false hope. For some reason, Black people have to always hold on to a false hope.”

Saratoga BLM has recently expressed hostility over the slow rollout of police accountability reforms in Saratoga Springs. With terms set to expire for all elected officials — Mayor Ron Kim and commissioners Dillon Moran, Jason Golub, Minita Sanghvi and James Monatgnino — Figuereo said he is willing to revisit rambunctious tactics used against members of the last administration in order to move the needle.

“They’ll tell you that they won because they knocked on so many doors,” said Figuereo. “I’ll tell you, they won because we made the other side look so bad that the city said, ‘We got to do something, we got to shut these people down, we need our streets back, we don’t want to mess up our beautiful track, our billions of dollars,’ but we are seeing nothing from this City Council but lip service.”

During the end of former Democratic Mayor Meg Kelly’s term in 2021, the group often engaged in heated public arguments with public officials. At one point that year, a Saratoga BLM supporter handed Kelly a container full of cockroaches.

One of the group’s earlier pursuits was demanding accountability for the death of Darryl Mount, a 21-year-old man of color who suffered fatal head injuries after a 19-foot fall from construction site scaffolding. Mount was chased by police after allegedly shoving a woman’s head into a brick wall on Caroline Street. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, convinced authorities were involved in his death.

Kelly and other city officials at the time failed to pass a state-mandated Civilian Police Review Board (CRB). Concurrently, the previous administration was placed under investigation by state Attorney General Letitia James after city police allegedly used heavy-handed tactics against BLM protesters during a protest that summer.

After Kim entered office, tensions simmered. Figuereo said that he tried “different strategies to reach our community” and hosted a number of neighborhood events. In hindsight, he considers the softer approach a mistake.

“[We] were giving people a chance, bro,” Figuereo said. “And I think it comes down to the fact that they think we’re complacent with where we are, right?”

Kim on social media recently said that “we can and must do better” in response to the attack of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, who died after his was beaten by five Black police officers on Jan. 7, as seen on video released last Friday.

Saratoga BLM co-founder Samira Sangare appeared to swipe at the remarks during a Tuesday press conference outside City Hall.

“I see elected officials talking about Tyre Nichols, talking about how upsetting this is, how we need to do something,” they said. “So then let’s do something.”

Figureo said that he had one meeting with Kim a year ago and none with Montagnino, the city’s public safety commissioner. He’s had a number of informal conversations with Moran, the accounts commissioner.

“I don’t think our progress has been anywhere near adequate, but it’s not my process to drive,” Moran said. “Again, I’m not trying to cause problems with my peers. We should be regularly updating the community on our progress of the 50-point police reform task force recommendations, which include the CRB.”

Since it was adopted by new council last spring, Saratoga Springs has struggled with CRB vacancies to fully roll out the review board. Moran earlier this month declined to provide a nomination for the CRB because he believes too many candidates have a pro- or anti-police bias. 

Montagnino is confident that the City Council will fully fill the CRB at its Feb. 7 meeting.

The public safety commissioner said that some reforms have been easier to roll out than others, like implicit bias training. 

“I don’t have them right in front of me at this instant, but some of them we’ve adopted and some are in the works,” Montagnino said. “One of the big ones I’ve been pushing and we’ve been making some progress on, but it’s really been taking a lot longer than I’ve hoped is getting the Police Department accredited” by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. 

Figuereo told reporters at the Tuesday press conference that he believes there ultimately shouldn’t be a police force in the city.

Montagnino disagrees with that position.

“Certainly improving the department in any way that we can in adding training, in being selective in who we recruit, all of that is up there,” said Montagnino. “And as you know, our transparency with the November 20 officer-involved shooting, we’re opening to the public as soon as possible.”

Kim didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3749 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil

Categories: News, Saratoga Springs

One Comment

Bill Marincic

Do you believe because Democrats won in Saratoga that your problems would be fixed? Newsflash, the Democrats only promise Blacks when it’s election time, then you are forgotten. Start voting Republican, what do you have to lose? Who was it that gave you prison reform, enterprise zones for employment, and narrowed the poverty gap? It wasn’t Obama it was Donald Trump, stop believing the lies of the democrats.

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