Protesters Interrupt, Delay Albany State of the City

More than 100 protestors packed into the rotunda at City Hall and piled out onto the steps Monday. They weren't there to listen to the State of the City Address, but wanted Mayor Kathy Sheehan to listen to their demands surrounding Dontay Ivy's death. Ivy was the mentally ill black man who died after being shocked by police Tasers in April.

"So as we get started," Sheehan tried to begin, but was immediately interrupted with "No justice, no peace" chants. 

And so it began, the State of the City in Alban,y where protesters got more words in than the mayor. The protesters yelled that Albany is a place where a black man is "guilty until proven innocent."

"You are not describing our city," yelled Mayor Sheehan in response. 

"What I would like to hear is an acknowledgement that this is what happens and that we're not making this stuff up," said Sean Desiree, co-founder of the newly announced Black Lives Matter chapter in Upstate New York. 

Mayor Sheehan did give an acknowledgment of racial inequality and inequity in Albany and focused on the body cameras that will soon be on every officer in the department. Chief Brendan Cox said they could be in use by as early as this summer.

But that wasn't what these protestors wanted to hear. They want Cox and the officers involved in Ivy's death fired. They also want all officers to be disarmed.

"I just don't think that's a valid argument," Cox said after the address. 

"If I fired police officers and the police chief tomorrow, what would be different? How would we do the work?" the mayor asked.

Part of the work that Sheehan tried to explain over the cries of the crowd includes a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. LEAD would allow police officers to give addicts or mentally ill people the option of getting treatment rather than taking them to jail. The police department is still awaiting funding that would pay for those services.

But before Mayor Sheehan was able to begin without interruption, most of the protestors filed out in song.

"What we saw here today is a voice that exists and is heard, but there are many other voices in this community and many other people who are working with us," said Mayor Sheehan.

The protestors held their own State of the City on the steps of City Hall, while the mayor's address continued inside.

 

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