Occupy Arch Street underway in South End

Dan Levy
Updated: April 18, 2021 11:48 PM
Created: April 18, 2021 11:45 PM

ALBANY - What began as a peaceful protest on Wednesday has turned into an inner city encampment in front of South Station Police Headquarters in Albany, not just for the weekend, but, according to demonstrators, for the foreseeable future.

"We are not going to sit here and continue to watch black and brown people get brutalized by the police," said Lexis Figuerio, a spokesman for Black Lives Matter. "We've had enough and we've already said it a million times, we're sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Figuerio says after police used pepper spray on demonstrators earlier this week, it changed everything. Some protesters climbed up onto the railings at South Station, others tried to kick in the doors. Someone smashed a window.

Protesters allege some officers removed their name tags and turned off their body cameras. It was a troubling and chaotic moment in which Figuerio accuses police of overreacting.

"You damaged our reputation," Figuerio accused the police of doing, "Saying that we tried to siege the police station, that's crazy."

"They don't see what our communities go through every day," said Vacari Fox, founder of Community Matters, "They don't see how the police talk to us. We're tired of it. People around the world and in the United States are tired of it."

Fox, and others, say they're willing to occupy Arch Street for as long as it takes, until the group's demands are met, demands that include the release of police personnel files to the public, a face-to-face meeting with Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins, and a targeted trimming down of the city police force.

"We're here to demand that not only are all those people removed from their position," said a protester identifying herself as "M", "The rookie cop should be fired. The chief of police should step down and Kathy Sheehan will be removed from office, whether by resignation or by being voted out by the people."

News Channel 13 reached out to the mayor and police chief seeking comment. By midnight Sunday, we hadn't heard back from them.

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