The Daily Gazette editorial on July 10 claimed that city police “appeared to give them [Black Lives Matter leader Lexis Figuereo and protesters] a hard time about getting into the [City Council] meeting” the evening of July 6. It is unfortunate that the Gazette and other commentators made this erroneous assumption without first investigating and confirming that this is what was actually going on.
The assumption that Figuereo and protesters were singled out to be held back by police at the Lake Avenue entrance to City Hall is based on video and commentary posted by Figuereo on social media. Mr. Figuereo, the police, and others can be seen at the bottom of the stairs located at the Lake Avenue doors to City Hall waiting to be allowed up to the City Council meeting. In the video you can see up the stairwell where Mr. Figuereo and others were waiting. People who had apparently entered from Broadway can be seen at the top of the stairs walking to the City Hall chambers leading to the appearance that Figuereo and the protesters were unfairly being held back while others were allowed to enter.
As is so often the case, however, all is not as it appears.
For security reasons public entrance to City Hall after the regular business hours is limited to the Lake Avenue entrance. This is also the public entrance to the Police Department. On the evening of July 6 the main doors facing Broadway (protected by the two lion statues) had been locked as usual, and a notice had been posted directing the public to the Lake Avenue entrance.
So in fact, the people being asked by the police to wait to get into the meeting that night were not just Mr. Figuereo but other people unrelated to his group who had read the sign on the Broadway entrance. Included, for instance, in those waiting was Joanne Kiernan, the Republican candidate for Commissioner of Finance. Mr. Figuereo and the protesters had not been singled out.
In the meantime someone from city hall opened the other door on Broadway which provides handicapped accessibility to the building (there is a ramp and an elevator). People arriving at city hall, seeing this door open, used it.
It is an unfortunate sign of the times and of the degree of suspicion that has been generated that rather than ask a few easily answered questions about access to the City Council meeting that night, the media and others embraced and disseminated a worst case scenario narrative that only contributed to the distrust and divisiveness that is all too pervasive in our community.