With police still investigating the latest gun death in Albany, the weekend was marked by social awareness events around the region.
People moved by headlines assembled Saturday in Albany and also Kingston observing a national day of protest in support of the people of Baltimore, calling for justice for Freddie Gray and all victims of police brutality.
The Kingston rally in front of city hall was organized by the group "End Jim Crow Action Network." The Daily Freeman says "dozens" of Ulster County residents participated. Charles McComb of New Progressive Baptist Church told Time Warner Cable News: “I see the need for unity and justice against the injustice. Black lives do matter. All lives do matter, but right now black lives are being killed.”
Gray died of a broken neck while in custody of Baltimore police in April. Six police officers have been charged in his death.
Meanwhile, upwards of 60 activists gathered outside the Arbor Hill police headquarters, remembering both Gary and Dontay Ivy, a mentally ill Albany man with a heart condition who died after being tased by city police officers who stopped him as he walked in his Arbor Hill neighborhood.
Protestors employed a component of "Occupy movement strategy" in a challenge to police, pressing the "mic check" call-and-response into service outside police HQ.
Social activist and former Occupy member Bradley Russell says a month after Ivy was killed, the public still doesn't have any real details on what happened. "His family has said that he was essentially 'pulled over,' although he was walking but stopped because he had his hand inside of his shirt on a cold night. And I think that that's part and parcel of what we see in terms of racial profiling in this country."
Although protestors demanded an answer from police, the Albany County D.A.'s office is continuing an independent investigation into Ivy's death. Another former Occupier, Sister Honora Kinney, warns locals that poverty, unemployment and inadequate education that factored in the Baltimore riots could easily play in Albany. "It just takes a while before things get bad enough that people totally can't stand it."
Later in the afternoon a half a block away, about a dozen people including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan turned out for a "State of Our Community Meeting"... "When I go into our schools, our kids are saying the same things that the adults say. Their neighborhoods feel unsafe to them. There's garbage everywhere. And they want jobs. I've had 5th and 6th graders, as projects that they do before I come in and speak to them, talk about and write essays about what change they want to see in their community. And it's the same thing from the adults. They know. They know."
Sheehan added that change will not be authentic or successful unless it comes from people sitting around the table, saying what they want for their specific neighborhood.
Hosted by local advocate Marlon Anderson, much of the dialogue revolved around community investment and development, along with preventing juvenile delinquency. "I myself witnessed, on the corner of Quail and First Street on Wednesday, nearly 100 kids fightin' in the street, blocking traffic, fightin' in the street like it was OK. And basically, with these things going on in the community, we are losing the moral ground to act and demand the change that we're asking for."
Anderson says the answers the marchers and protestors are seeking are within reach. "If we can get out, protest and demand change of other communities, be it police communities, be it political communities, we need to get out, fight and demand change in our own communities."