A young black girl and a white man lay on the tiled floor of Crossgates Mall, holding hands with their eyes shut.
Resting on top of them was a white sign that read, in black letters, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
“It’s a family thing,” said Shane Quandt, now standing, as his girlfriend’s daughter, Mina Vrooman, 9, buried her face in his coat. “She’s got a mixed culture. A lot of my friends are here actually — they’re black — and they have a voice and they want it to be heard.
“And they just got it heard.”
The pair joined about 30 others Saturday near the entrance to the mall’s food court in a die-in protest that started at 11:30 a.m. and lasted about 10 minutes. Chanting “This is how we fight back,” “Silence is violence” and “Black lives matter,” the group joined protesters across the country in demanding justice for people like Eric Garner, 43, of Staten Island and Michael Brown, 18, of Ferguson, Missouri, black men who were killed by white police officers earlier this year.
“There needs to be an end to police brutality, and somebody’s got to do it,” said Quandt’s girlfriend, Ashley Jones of Albany, who stood and watched the die-in with Mina’s brother, Preston, because he was too shy to take part, “even if it is something as simple as laying on the floor. . . . Enough people stopped and said, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
The peaceful protest garnered some disdain for the protesters’ message — one man walking by was overheard saying “What about white lives? They don’t matter?” — while others nodded their heads in appreciation or skirted the group and got on with their last-minute holiday shopping.
“I heard a lady telling her son, ‘Well, they’re protesting something they’re not happy about — civil disobedience — and it’s OK to do it,’ ” Jones said.
Amani Olugbala of Albany, an organizer of the die-in, said it was a way to grab the attention of people who “don’t know the numbers.” For example, she said, a black man, woman or child is killed by a police officer or someone protected by the state every 28 hours. The numbers, from 2012, come from a report, “Operation Ghetto Storm,” by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an activist group.
“There is a genocide that’s happening, and we need to be having a conversation,” said Olugbala, 25, who held a sign that said “#blacklivesmatter” as she lay on the floor. “We need to be able to have a real conversation around police brutality and race in this country. These things happen, and there’s no repercussions, there’s no indictment.”
In both the Garner and Brown cases, grand juries decided not to indict the police officers deemed responsible for their deaths.
Jones said she wants to be able to raise children and not have to worry that they could be killed by police “because they’re black.”
“It’s a fear,” she said. “It’s a real fear.”
Sean Collins, another organizer, said the mall on a busy holiday shopping day was an ideal setting for the die-in.
“A lot of folks are here to get gifts for their family that they’re going to give to them on Christmas Day, and across the country, every 28 [hours], there’s another family that isn’t going to be able to have that chance on Christmas,” said Collins, 24, of Troy.
There was no sign of police officers or mall security during the brief protest.
“I think it went really well,” Collins said. “I think it’s one of many, many more to come.”