SARATOGA SPRINGS – Judge Constantine DeStefano denied a request by Pubic Safety Commissioner James Montagnino in Saratoga Springs City Court Tuesday morning to issue an order of protection that would have charged Saratoga Black Lives Matter member Chandler Hickenbottom with criminal contempt if she conducted any illegal conduct.
The request for the order of protection came as Hickenbottom appeared in city court and pleaded not guilty to the violation of disorderly conduct following a complaint filed by Montagnino.
The complaint stems from a Feb. 7 meeting in which Hickenbottom refused to cede the microphone during the public comment period of a City Council meeting leading to the adjournment of the meeting. The meeting then restarted but was again quickly adjourned after Hickenbottom and other BLM members argued with Montagnino about his statement surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols in relation to the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
Hickenbottom’s attorney Mark Mishler said the complaint and subsequent requested order of protection violates Hickenbottom’s First Amendment right.
“We think the charge itself is completely meritless and infringement upon my clients First Amendment protected rights and this request for an order of protection is further the same sort of effort to infringe upon, chill and violate Ms. Hickenbottom’s First Amendment protected rights.”
Following the proceedings Hickenbottom, standing on the steps of City Hall, called the situation ridiculous.
“Like I’ve said before they are literally just taking a play out of the book of the previous city council and clearly they have not learned their lesson,” she said.
The state Attorney General’s office is currently investigating alleged civil rights violations by the prior administration.
“The fact that here we are again, they’ve only been in office I think it’s been going on two years at this point and they’re already letting history repeat itself,” she said.
Hickenbottom said the order of protection would have taken away her opportunity to go to city meetings and voice her opinion on issues in the city.
“I am a part of this community,” she said. “I am a life-long community member. I was born and raised in Saratoga Springs and it is my right to come to these city council meetings and ask the proper questions, questions that are not being asked by other people in this community. People that may be too afraid to ask those questions, that is my responsibility and at this point and time they’re taking away from what is my responsibility and I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Montagnino said the decision regarding the order was at the judge’s discretion.
“I put it out there for the judge to consider, the judge considered it, the judge made the decision the judge made,” he said.
While the request for the order of protection was dismissed nothing else moved forward on the matter as prosecutor Kayla Potter indicated the people are seeking a special prosecutor in the matter but did not provide detail as to why.
Several members of BLM were in court in show of support of Hickenbottom, with a couple of them and Hickenbottom wearing red hoodies that on the back said “Jim Montagnino your racism is showing #thepeoplesmeeting.”
The group is currently selling t-shirts with the same statement for $25 to help pay attorney fees.
Montagnino said he’s baffled by the sentiment.
“It didn’t matter to me who shut down the city council meeting in terms of their race, ethnic origin, background, it’s completely irrelevant,” he said. “If a group of people wearing MAGA hats that shut down the city council meeting I would have reacted exactly the same way. The point is it wasn’t a momentary or slight disruption in the proceedings, the meeting ended without the city’s business having been done.”
Mayor Ron Kim called the entire matter excessive.
“It’s not necessary,” Kim said about the complaint and requested order of protection. “It’s a public meeting. Speech is not only speech that we may support, it’s also speech that we don’t maybe want to hear and that the First Amendment right and we ought to allow people that time.”