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Spa City holds forum to combat racism

Spa City holds forum to combat racism

More than 30 people gathered on Friday at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church
Spa City holds forum to combat racism
Henrietta Jackson, of Saratoga, speaks about being the target of racial harassment during a Friday meeting in Saratoga Springs.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Daily Gazette Photographer

SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 30 people gathered Friday in the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church for a community forum on how to combat recent racist events. 

Lifelong Saratoga Springs resident Carol Daggs said she was driving on July 30 with her elderly mother when a man in a black Chevrolet pick-up truck started cursing at her at the corner of Lincoln and Vanderbilt avenues.

Daggs spoke with fellow Spa City resident Henrietta Jackson, both of whom are African American, who had also been harassed by the same man. 

Jackson said she was sitting on a neighbor's porch on Doten Avenue, near the Saratoga Casino Hotel, when the man slowed down and stopped before shouting the n-word and giving her the middle finger. 

"No one is going to treat us as though we don't belong," Daggs said. "People need to know what's going on."

Friday's community forum was attended by Saratoga Springs Police Lt. Sean Briscoe, who said community members need to call the police when such incidents happen.

"People can say some really nasty things, and unfortunately, they're protected by the First Amendment, unless they made a direct threat," he said. "Multiple incidents do give us more room to act, so it's imperative that you call us right away." 

Doten Avenue resident Joe Juidiciani said he's called the police several times, as the same man Daggs and Jackson encountered has sped down his street while his children are out playing. 

"The stories I've heard about racism are disgusting," he said. "The other perspective is the safety to the children in the area. He drives up and down my street 10 to 12 times a day."

Briscoe said he was glad the community gathered to discuss what happened. 

"We came out because of the action of one person, so that is an example of the fact that this community won't tolerate this kind of behavior and that it's not the norm," he said. "We've had some incidents of swastikas appearing in the community, but it's not a regular pattern."

In February, several city residents found fliers on their cars inviting them to join the Loyal White Knights, an active faction of the Ku Klux Klan, which has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. 

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would direct state police to investigate the distribution of white supremacy materials, which has occurred in counties across the state. 

Kathy Johnson, a member of Presbyterian New England Congregational Church, led Friday's community forum. 

"We want to restore peace for Saratoga," she said. 

Johnson said a committee would be formed in an effort to keep the community safe from hateful language and crimes, and to provide support for those who feel threatened. 

"We get to the point where we say, 'What can we do?' but this is what we can do to help make it stop," she said, pointing to a list of solutions the group came up with, which include calling the police and filming incidents with smartphones. "We need to stop this before it gets worse."

Johnson said another community forum is being planned, but the date had not been determined.

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