SARATOGA SPRINGS – Tuesday evening’s Saratoga Springs City Council meeting escalated quickly into arguments between Saratoga Black Lives Matter members, other audience members and council members that at one point included several police officers coming to the meeting before being told by the mayor to leave.
No members of BLM were arrested at the meeting.
Things quickly became heated when BLM activist Chandler Hickenbottom took the microphone during the meeting’s public comment period and refused to stop speaking after the designated two-minute time period set by the council.
“When you were running for election you made sure to have conversations with us then because what did you want us to do?” Hickenbottom said. “You wanted us to make sure that we put you in power and then you did nothing with the power that you currently have. You do exactly what you can to get the Black vote, so that we can go ahead and put you in power and then again you do nothing for the Black community.”
The council members were elected in November 2021 and their terms expire this year.
Tuesday’s meeting came after BLM held a press conference Jan. 31 in which they called out the City Council for not moving forward with police reform initiatives and pledging to put pressure on officials.
Hickenbottom also pointed out that the police department had not even done the first initiative for the 50-point plan–to acknowledge and apologize for past wrongdoings.
Police reform was an executive order issued in 2020 by then Gov. Andrew Cuomo following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The order called for communities to review and determine ways to improve their police departments.
As Hickenbottom continued talking, the city police officer in the room–who has been at meetings in the past, particularly ones where large numbers of people show up regarding heavily debated topics–began walking toward Hickenbottom.
Hickenbottom was immediately surrounded by other BLM activists as shouting ensued from activists toward the officer, city council members and audience members.
Outside the Music Hall doors several other city police officers could be seen in the hallway before briefly entering and then leaving after Mayor Ron Kim spoke to them. It was unclear whether the officers had been summoned to the meeting from police headquarters in the basement of City Hall, or whether they came on their own accord.
The meeting was eventually adjourned as all City Council members except Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino spoke face to face with BLM activists, who began calling for a public meeting with council members, BLM and the press to all be present.
Eventually the meeting came back into session and Kim announced that a council meeting would be set to talk with BLM to address the group’s concerns. But the renewed session didn’t last long after Hickenbottom asked members to speak publicly on Tyre Nichols death and how it related to the city’s police department and the ongoing investigation into the death of Darryl Mount.
Five Memphis police officers were fired and charged in the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols. Nichol died a few days later in the hospital from his injuries.
Mount, a 21-year-old Black man, suffered fatal head injuries after a 19-foot fall from construction site scaffolding in 2013. 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.
Both Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub’s and Montagnino’s comments were met with heavy criticism by BLM activists to the point where Kim wouldn’t let Montagnino finish his comments.
“I advocate and I work for change,” Golub said. “It may not be the same way you do, but that’s ok. It’s like running a play in football, you don’t want everyone running the same damn play. You run a play and I run a play. It doesn’t mean we’re not working in the same direction.”
While commenting on the Tyre Nichols case, Montagnino said Nichols was murdered by a gang of thugs–the Scorpions–who were blue and were funded and armed by the city of Memphis. The Scorpions were a special elite team in the Memphis Police Department.
“Absolutely nothing, nothing about the conduct of those police officers–I say that almost ironically because except for their uniforms, except for their armaments, except for their vehicles–nothing that they say or did even vaguely resembled the conduct of police officers,” he said.
Following shouts from audience members in disagreement, Montagnino continued to state, before being cut off again, that Saratoga Springs Police Department heavily screens those entering the department and only selects those who have scored high on the civil service exam to head to training.
Following continued shouting from BLM activists the council decided to adjourn the meeting for a second time.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Email Newsletter, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs