On March 27, 2021, MLK Saratoga and Elz Figuereo organized a demonstration downtown in support of the fifty recommendations from the Saratoga Springs Police Reform and Reimagine Task Force.
The lack of safety precautions for the people attracted to this event was deeply troubling. Mr. Figuereo has a history of this kind of behavior, but I was disappointed that my friends at MLK Saratoga would be complicit in this. In their defense, they perhaps did not really think all of this through.
Most of the demonstrators were teenagers and young adults motivated by their laudable desire to somehow bring an end to racism and the national epidemic of police violence epitomized by the death of George Floyd.
After gathering in Congress Park, the participants marched down Henry Street to Lake Avenue and then up Lake Avenue to the steps of City Hall. Following the speeches, they poured out onto Broadway. At least one car speeding through the intersection nearly hit someone. They marched up Broadway heading back to Congress Park. The rear of the march was exposed to any potential reckless or malicious driver. At Division Street, a city police patrol car and a sheriff patrol car moved in behind them to offer protection until they reached the park.
During the entire demonstration there were no uniformed police to be seen, with the exception of the two patrol cars.
Three demonstrators who I assumed to be the “security” for the march stood in the street while the demonstrators were on the City Hall steps. At least one of these people had two baseball bats in their backpack. I presume that the weapons were there to defend the group from any counter protesters.
There had been no communication with the police department regarding the coordination of this event in the interest of safety.
Fortunately for the people demonstrating there was no disturbed person in a car to run them down as has happened in other cities and there were no armed counter protesters who might shoot someone as occurred in Seattle.
I invite the leadership of MLK Saratoga to enter into a conversation about the issue of safety at their demonstrations. While Martin Luther King took great risks in the demonstrations he organized he was steeped in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. The idea of having someone armed with a baseball bat participating would be anathema to him.
Social change is about engagement, dialogue, and education. I offer MLK Saratoga an invitation to write a post for this site explaining why they chose not to coordinate their event with the police to maximize the safety of the people they were leading.