Police brutality shocker in Albany, NY

Faced with protesters against police brutality, how did the Albany police respond? With brutality.

I supported Mayor Kathy Sheehan when she first ran, against an old-style pol. I wrote about how great it was to attend her inauguration. Even sent her my book about Albany politics. 

Then the city sent a sizable bill to the “Poor People’s campaign,” for policing during a protest. I was no left-wing fan; but wrote Mayor Sheehan objecting to this atrocity against free speech. The kind of thing a Putin regime would do. Pointing out that the city hires police to do, well, police work. 

A delayed reply said a document was enclosed. It wasn’t. My follow-up letter got no reply. When, meeting her, I asked Sheehan about it, she promised to get back to me. Never did. Anyhow, the whole episode showed her mindset about freedom of expression.

Alice Green

I’ve also pointed out that Albany’s police review board is a toothless travesty. Lately the city has conducted a rather opaque “reform process.” Dr. Alice Green, Albany’s well-known head of the Center for Law and Justice and longtime advocate on such issues was — incredibly — not included. Not surprisingly, the process seems to have produced . . . nothing much. 

On April 14, a BLM demonstration at an Albany police station might have gotten a bit rowdy. Police broke it up with what seemed to me needless brutality. Afterward, a group of protesters encamped by the station, seeking a dialog with the Mayor about their demands. She did not respond. Barriers were erected in front of the building, and state troopers brought in to guard it.

Chief Hawkins

There’d been no violence. The protesters were doing nothing except keeping vigil. Nevertheless, on Thursday, Police Chief Eric Hawkins, with Mayor Sheehan’s backing, launched an assault to clear the area. Demonstrators were given just 15 minutes warning. The police wore full military gear. At least some had their badges covered by tape. Hiding their identities. You know something real bad is going down when officers do that. 

It was brutal. Some protesters were injured, others carried off to jail. Much property, including chairs and heaters (it was wintry cold), was bulldozed and destroyed.

And why was this violence necessary? Chief Hawkins said, “Protesters may continue to peacefully demonstrate, but they must do so in a space that is safe and lawful.” Excuse me: bullshit. If there was something problematic about what the protesters were doing — and I can certainly believe that — surely there was a better way to handle it. Like, maybe, talking with them? To work something out? Before launching Armageddon.

People living in the neighborhood had complained about the encampment. Sometimes rights clash. But anyhow, again, surely there was a better way to resolve the situation without going straight to ultra-violence.

Right-wingers bleat about “freedom” from over-mighty government. But where are their voices when government sends armed men to brutalize people peacefully exercising free speech? They bleat “law and order” but excuse police violations of law and order. Today’s American right has only prejudices, not principles.

This week’s Minneapolis verdict struck a welcome blow for police accountability. This is what democracy looks like. Justice is never perfect, but in a free society, we try our best, and we showed it in Minneapolis. A real milestone in America’s march toward a more perfect union. How disheartening that only days later my own city became a poster boy for continuing police brutality. 

3 Responses to “Police brutality shocker in Albany, NY”

  1. Don Bronkema Says:

    Oswald Spengler defined the destiny of a nation as an ‘immer streben’–an eternal struggle for hegemony. Aware of the odds, he said each of us should embrace his fate [amor fati] in order to control it. Paradox, oxymoron, antinomy–yet what else can we do pursuant to the 1986 Libet/Koch lab-demo that all choice is neuro-fictive? Mentation & volition are 20-khz sweeper-wave illusions. Only Messor Gravis [todt, la muerte, le mort, smyert] can anodynize such pain, tho dottir makes a case for fried oysters at the DC Wharf [submarine in event of Force-III blowing up Estuary at hi-tide]. Breaking for Fareed.

  2. Josephine Rysn Says:

    I think you are way off base in this piece. I know its opinion not reporting but a more balanced approach would have better strengthened your position. I think you have used the word brutality a little too freely. As always I enjoy reading what you have to say.

  3. Don Bronkema Says:

    JR: Police could have cleared the site w/o resort to ‘goonery’. Trust you are not suggesting reportorial balance ‘pro salva sua’–it can excuse official crime Let’s abjure relativistic ‘on-the-other-handism’. In no other advanced polity do police routinely shoot people down on the street–oft seemingly for amusement–& in no other are so many armed to the teeth. Context: Reeper Madness, race-mixing, 1968 southern strategy, NRA, gundustry, threat to uber-group hegemony, globalization, syntels, secularism, urbanism, corona, thermageddon. Science & Jomala to the rescue, no?

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