BLM: Were they Ever Going To Participate In Mediation?

The media coverage of the conflict between the local Black Lives Matter group and the Saratoga Springs City Council and Police Department has portrayed the city as arrogant and intransigent. An innocent observer would believe that the City Council and Police Department have been unwilling to engage thoughtfully with a group seeking racial justice. In fact, for roughly two years BLM has had ample opportunity to sit down and meet with the members of the City Council and the Police, and has chosen not to.

While it is not easy to write about a highly charged story such as this, the public has in general been ill served by recent reporting.

The September 24 edition of the Foothills Business Daily (FBD) represents a clear example of this problem. The reporter writes:

The fallout from the arrests that began on Sept. 7 has meant that BLM Saratoga will not enter into a mediated discussion with Saratoga Springs city officials. 

Foothills Business Review (FHBR)

So the article states, as if fact, that the recent arrests of members of the local Black Lives Matter group is the reason they will not participate in mediation. This narrative implies that had there been no arrests, mediation would have gone forward. As we shall see there is plenty of evidence that BLM never intended to engage in mediation regardless of what events unfolded.

A more accurate story would have avoided inserting assumptions made by the writer and simply stated that Samira Sangere, a leader of the BLM group, speaking at the September City Council meeting, had declared that there would be no mediation unless the charges against the members of her group were dropped.

How Can One Negotiate With Evil?

Members of the City Council and the leadership of the Police Department have repeatedly reached out to BLM, and BLM has never demonstrated a serious interest in engaging. The reality is that BLM has only “engaged” with the Council and the Police through the news media, during the public comment period at City Council meetings, and during their demonstrations. For roughly two years they have had ample opportunities to sit down and meet with the members of the City Council and the Police in situations that would have been more conducive to productive conversations, and they have chosen not to.

The BLM leadership has made crystal clear that they think Council members and the Police are unredeemable, hard core racists. Their message has been repeated over and over again in chants in the streets calling the Police murderers and in repeated condemnations of City Council members in the media and in person at City Council meetings.

So there is a certain logic to their refusal to sit down to talk with city officials. If the Council and the Police are hardened racists, what point is there to meet with them outside of the public spotlight because nothing can come of it.

This explains to some extent their actions at Council meetings. The statements made to the Council are really meant to tell the public what a bankrupt institution our city government is and not to move a conversation about reform forward.


The History

Attempts to Reach Out: Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton

In June of 2020, Commissioner Dalton began reaching out to the BLM leadership about meeting. Things looked promising as the Facebook page from this period reflects. There seemed to be some real interest in meeting. Unfortunately, BLM withdrew. Based on the thread it appears that for some reason Dillon Moran worked to undermine engagement. In fact, Mr. Moran is wrong in saying that the Commissioner and the Chief were required specifically to set up a meeting. The Governor’s executive order simply required the City Council to seek input which was accomplished by the establishment of the Police Reform Task Force.

In July, the following month, Commissioner Dalton and Police Chief Shane Crooks set up a Zoom event which they described as Community Conversation/Active Listening. The event devolved into a medium for the BLM participants to shout invectives at Commissioner Dalton and Chief Crooks. It ended with the image below where some of the BLM people can be seen giving the middle finger.

Subsequently Commissioner Dalton gave Mr. Figuereo her cell phone number hoping to establish an effective dialogue. Consider these texts from May and July of this year from Commissioner Dalton’s cell phone. Mr. Figuereo’s text is the first one in black and white, the rest come from Commissioner Dalton. What follows are messages from May and July where Commissioner Dalton reaches out to Figuereo, and he is unresponsive.

Finance Commissioner Madigan’s Failed Quest

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan made a valiant attempt to set up a mediated meeting with the leadership of BLM. For weeks she continually called and texted Lexis Figuereo in a vain attempt to set up a mediated meeting.

Given the acrimonious and heated events that marked BLM’s participation at City Council meetings, Commissioner Madigan understandably felt it was important to involve a professional mediator. An unstructured meeting, it was feared, would have been just another event full of rage and invective.

The following is a thread of texts and unanswered calls in which she chases Lexis Figuereo trying to make the mediation happen. Somehow, Mr. Figuereo can never get back to her to commit to a meeting.

More Attempts to Reach Out: Police Chief Shane Crooks

Chief Crooks had Lieutenant Robert Jillson reached out to Mr. Figuereo offering to meet with him on multiple occasions. Mr. Figuereo acknowledged this publicly at one point saying he would meet when he was ready. Mr. Figuereo ended up responding to their repeated attempts by telling them to stop calling him.

Lieutenant Thomas Mitchell extended the offer on Chief Crooks’ behalf at a City Council meeting to meet with Mr. Figuereo to no avail.

Chief Crooks told me that he approached Mr. Figuereo at a meeting of the Police Reform Task Force and Mr. Figuereo simply turned and walked away.

Mayor Meg Kelly

Mayor Kelly told me that Mr. Figuereo has never reached out to meet with her.

22 thoughts on “BLM: Were they Ever Going To Participate In Mediation?”

  1. Hopefully the next City Council will be made up of individuals who maintain a sober and mature approach in their interactions with the local BLM activists. In my opinion, the present Council did their best under a difficult set of circumstances. Sadly, the very important concept that Black Lives Matter was lost along the way. Rather than enlightening our community, the irresponsible rhetoric and behavior of the activists reflected negatively on the movement here in Saratoga Springs.

    Chris Mathiesen

    Liked by 3 people

    1. With all due respect Chris, to point the finger at the activists and ignore the statements made by John Catone or how the city/county responded to the activists is a bit tone deaf. A typical weekend on Caroline Street causes more actual problems for the city then the activists have, but we don’t see officers in full riot gear patrolling the street “just in case.” There is a telling difference between how the city has responded to BLM compared to other groups, and most of the city’s related issues have been self-inflicted.

      I don’t agree with Lexis Figuereo’s language and giving members of the council the finger on a Zoom meeting seems like a self-defeating move. That said, the BLM crowd has also made concrete requests, especially around the need for an outside investigation into the case of Daryl Mount, which John has reported on exceptionally. If the city wants to show they’re serious, take some real action rather than posting on social media or making empty statements during meetings.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. With all due respect to Andy, a reality check is needed here. Blocking Broadway (a federal and state highway), berating and screaming at outdoor dining patrons, the vulgar language, the out-of-control behavior at during open meetings, etc., etc, etc. is unacceptable and in violation of several laws and ordinances. Martin Luther King Jr. would not be proud. Since few people have done more to enhance the professional reputation of the SSPD, it should not be surprising that John Catone let his frustration be known after a years worth of unfounded accusations against our police by the activists.

        I disagree with Andy’s characterization of John Kaufmann’s reporting on the Darryl Mount incident as ‘exceptional’. I am a big fan of John so I continue to be mystified by his adherence to what I consider to be distorted and out-of-context information. On June 20, 2014, in a effort to ensure full transparency, Police Chief Veitch and I conducted a press conference to make the public aware of the SSPD’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding Darryl Mount’s fall from scaffolding while running from the police after an alleged domestic violence incident. A series of surveillance videos and many pages of documents from the investigation were released and were available on the City website for years. If Andy, John, the activists or anyone else finds a discrepancy or inadequacy in information, they should run, not walk, to the Attorney General’s office to bring any such evidence to their attention.

        Chris Mathiesen

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Chris,
        I never excused the actions of some of the activists, especially when it comes to unlawful actions that put people in danger. But I can also read the police blotter weekly to see all of the violence that comes from Caroline Street, to say nothing for the parking/driving issues, trash and bodily fluids that any morning walker in the area comes across regularly. I don’t see the police or council holding press conferences about the bars or pointing fingers at all patrons, while they take similar actions against the activists. Yes, there are some aggressive and unlawful activists, the same way there are aggressive and unlawful bar patrons. One group gets condemned publicly (and in totality) painted as being in the wrong, while the other is allowed, or even encouraged, by the police and council. I’d note that you lump all of the activists in as being “irresponsible” in your first comment.

        As for John Catone, if he was that emotional or angry then someone else should have held the press release, as his behavior made things worse. Prior service aside, his position at the time of the remarks required him to be be viewed as non-biased figure of authority. Instead he made threatening comments, blamed politicians, and conflated activists with violent criminals. He is obviously very passionate about his department, but that doesn’t excuse what was said. Both of your comments, and comments in other posts, make it appear that John Catone and the SSPD aren’t ever in the wrong about anything.

        I’m no expert in the Daryl Mount case, but by my reading it appears to come down to the need for an internal investigation. Your prior response to John made it sound like the chief at the time determined that there was no substance for an investigation. This claim is troubling given the email the chief sent to be read, and also the implication that any chief has that much power in deciding the need for an investigation. Would a chief also have the ability to decide against an investigation if they or an immediate subordinate was accused of something? A death such as this isn’t a regular occurrence here, and a proper internal investigation should have happened, if only to further prove the correct actions taken by the police. Even if the AG or DA didn’t step in, that doesn’t preclude the public from wanting to ensure that an abundance of caution is taken when someone loses their life in an interaction with the police.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It would seem that arresting the protestors for blocking traffic has had the desired effect. This simple technique of escalating consequences for illegal behavior that starts with a warning and progresses to arrest works just fine for this type of thing.

    In all honesty, the BLM gatherings were basically unity demonstrations similar to gay pride events. There is no coherent set of ‘demands’. It is a public relations statement.

    Ethnic identity is an extremely interesting subject to study. The United States consists of hundreds of distinct racial and ethnic groups who, once upon a time, left their place of origin once population pressures taxed the home resource base.

    It is absolutely essential that population densities are capped in defined geographic areas. If not, ethnic genocide will return sooner or later.

    Like

    1. “The United States consists of hundreds of distinct racial and ethnic groups who, once upon a time, left their place of origin once population pressures taxed the home resource base.”

      I can’t speak for all races, but the slave trade resulted in the ancestors of many black Americans coming to this country not due to “population pressures,” but due to the most horrific domestic practice in American history, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Black communities continue to be treated worse than others, be it with healthcare, education, pollution, police interactions, sentencing, and a host of other issues. To act as if all races came here of their own volition, and purely due to whatever you mean by “population pressures,” shows a material misunderstanding of American history.

      As for the local BLM organization, they have made some pretty clear demands along the way. They’ve (rightfully) requested an apology for them being blamed for an uptick in violence, they’ve supported the 50 points proposed by the SSPD task force and a civilian review board, and they’ve spoken for an investigation into Daryl Mount’s death. These requests are pretty “coherent,” and readily available on their social media.

      Regarding your last statement, there is undoubtedly a limit on how many people can mathematically fit in a given area, but what does ethnicity have to do with it? To say “ethnic genocide” is a given assumes racism-driven violence is a given, which is a pretty bleak view of the world. Last I checked, NYC was pretty dense and I don’t believe there are roving gangs of racists killing each other. What evidence supports this alleged return?

      Like

      1. Andy, you are totally correct that some people came here involuntarily as slaves. Liberia was formed in Africa to try to rectify the solution by providing a path to return after the Civil War here. If you actually believe in a ‘white’ or ‘black’ identity (I do not), then perhaps you feel guilty over this. My ancestors had nothing to do with it and it was confined to the Southern States and the landowning class there. I actually have Illyrian roots – people who fought the Romans in antiquity. There were transnational corporations that profited from the slave trade between the Americas and Africa. Jefferson, as President, made importation of slaves illegal in 1807, thus trying to initiate a solution pretty early after our revolution. Blood feuds have to end at some point, and it is not fair to blame ‘white people’ here for slavery in the 18th and 19th century. If there is blame, it lies in the East India Companies and vestiges of the Colonial Governance. The Plantation owners in the South were operating as ‘producers’ in a transnational trading sense and thought cotton sales would finance and win the war, and keep slaves in the fields.

        A lifetime of reading a learning has informed my view and I provide a synthesized prognostication on population pressures and social stability. World War II had strong elements of ethnic genocide, so did the Armenian, the Albanian, the Yugoslavian (Balkan), Rwandian, Ethoipian, Tamilian, Native American, Vietnamese (Hwang people), Mongolian, Chinese Maoist Revolution, etc. The list is actually endless. The Romans slaughtered whole tribes of a certain ethnicity if they failed to surrender and assimilate. There will be big tensions between large collectives and those that hold individualist value sets. This may reach the point of extreme violence if the Federal government does not recognize the signs or provides the wrong policies to address the imbalance between value sets. These value sets may be partially hereditary and genetic. I recommend reading 2052 by Jorgen Randers.

        The best contemporary case study is the Rwandian genocide. The population increases caused family farm plots to drop below subsistence level (below about 1/2 acre) due to split inheritance, causing a Hutu coordinated grab for Tutsi land (who were an administrative middle class who had a lock on cattle grazing). It did not take long to kill millions of people with machetes.

        Like

    2. Your own ancestors and beliefs about white or black identity aside, it is an undeniable fact that there is a stark disparity between how white and black people are treated in America today, with roots of this disconnect dating back to slavery. This split has been furthered by things like Jim Crow laws, government sponsored racism like redlining, and the continued underfunding/over-policing of minority neighbors. No one proposing real solutions is blaming individual white people today for prior atrocities or racist laws, but there is something to be said for white people’s current success being built on these prior events. The postwar housing boom was one of the largest drivers of wealth in this country’s history, and black people were largely excluded from it for no other reason than the color of their skin. Black soldiers returning home from the war were unable to take advantage of GI Bill benefits their white compatriots used to thrive, as some colleges barred black student entirely and the VA pushed black veterans for vocational training instead, or denied benefit entirely. So as rising home prices and college educations allowed white Americans to succeed, minorities were left with less resources and virtually no avenues for advancement. This is what part of today’s dialogue is centered around. Reinvesting in groups and communities that were mistreated due to racism, and trying to correct and improve upon today’s public and private infrastructure that has been purposefully or indirectly built on this racism, is part of what groups like BLM are aiming to do. Fairness, and the American ideal that all people are created equally, requires atoning for prior mistakes and ensuring the system works correctly going forward.

      As for your selection of genocides, the idea that “population densities” played a key role in all of them, rather differing religious beliefs, historical disputes, racism, or outright greed is farcical, but I’m going to leave those critiques alone, as some of your language is a bit too close to eugenics for my liking.

      I’d recommend you actually listen to local and national BLM groups to better understand that their demands are in fact “coherent,” and perhaps recognize that not everyone is in America because an ancestor of theirs decided to leave their homeland due to “population pressures.”

      Like

  3. So Andy. No one has ever accused me of ignoring the lawlessness on Caroline Street, traffic/parking issues or trash and bodily fluids before. For years I made a point of voicing my concerns about those problems which are serious.

    John Catone and I both agree that there are problems with the SSPD as there are for any police department. The SSPD is staffed with human beings. Some are better cops than others.

    You have determined that there should be an Internal Investigation regarding the Darryl Mount accidental fall. This would be an Internal Investigation of whom and for what? There was a thorough investigation of the incident as I have stated repeatedly. In an effort to be entirely transparent, surveillance videos and many documents surrounding that investigation were released to the public on June 20, 2014. The information was then made available on the City website for years. Please explain any discrepancies in this information which might justify your stance on this topic. While Darryl Mount did tragically pass away nine months after the accident, the SSPD did everything they could to help him when they found him at the base of the scaffolding less than six minutes after they began their pursuit. They assessed his status and, as soon as they realized the severity of his injuries, summoned the SSFD which transported him to Albany Med where he was treated immediately. Who would you be investigating and for what transgression?

    Chris Mathiesen

    Like

    1. Chris — the family hired a forensic pathologist who called into question the fall given the lack of wounds on the deceased’s arms. Of course, this is the discrepancy which is still unaddressed. And of course, you know about it. Regardless of your feelings on the accuracy of the third party pathologist, you’re being selective in order to defend yourself. An answer to this discrepancy would have gone a long way in transparency. I don’t have a strong opinion on this. I didn’t live in Saratoga at the time. I’m sure you always did what you thought was the right thing.

      More importantly, in the years since (since I moved here), the department has continued to operate under a routine of opaqueness. Take this most recent development…cops barred the public from access to City Court on 9/21. First, cops tried to blame the courts. Then, the courts refuted this. So weeks later, we get a statement from the Chief that it “resulted from a misunderstanding in communication between on-duty members of the SSPD…”

      Passive voice. Lack of accountability. Which officers was the misunderstanding between? Who delivered the order that deprived our citizens of their constitutional rights? Are they going to be reprimanded?

      This is the exact kind of speedbump that could be corrected with trust, transparency, accountability, and leadership. The Mount case aside, and Black Lives Matter aside…this is poor leadership.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To add on to Rob’s post regarding the Mount case, the internal investigation would be into the time that is being disputed. The “surveillance videos” that you point to are only part of the incident, and don’t reflect the moment of death, which, based on your prior emails to John, you appear to base on officer/EMS statements and interviews with local residents about what they heard (late at night, in a city with a fair amount of noise on a Saturday).

        I am honestly a bit surprised as to why you and the SSPD don’t believe that transparency in a case like this, in light of incidents around the country showing violence against minorities by the police, is an understandable request that could finally put the incident behind the city. The department and city’s refusal to even consider the request makes it appear that something is being hidden. If everything was done by the books, and this really was just a tragic accident, then what is the issue with having someone outside the department confirm that? Your email to John makes it sound like you believe the Mount family’s attorney and media are saying untrue things to tell their side of the story, but don’t you see how people might assume the same thing of the SSPD?

        Like

      2. Rob,

        I can’t address the findings of the forensic pathologist since I am not a forensic pathologist. I do know that trying to trace back the cause of an injury based only on the injuries sustained is a very inexact science. The SSPD was not operating under of routine of opaqueness in 2014 when the Department of Public Safety conducted a press conference to release volumes of information on the findings of the police department’s investigation into the Darryl Mount incident.

        Chris Mathiesen

        Like

  4. ‘Mayor Kelly told me that Mr. Figuereo has never reached out to meet with her.’

    Maybe these issues would’ve been resolved more successfully if our mayor had spoken up about them and showed even a modicum of leadership.

    I voted for her and had high hopes in 2019 and she has let us down every step of the way, I cannot recall the last time we had such an ineffective Mayor – on social justice issues, on Covid, you name it, she’s been silent & hiding.

    Like

  5. Andy,

    I’m not sure what you are referring to. The ‘moment of death’ that you mention occurred nearly nine months after the August 31, 2013 incident.
    ‘Transparency in a case like this IS an understandable request’ which is why we were so transparent about the facts surrounding this incident.

    Like

    1. Apologies Chris, I meant “the moments that led to his eventual death.”

      As for transparency, I don’t know if I’m being unclear or you’re purposefully evading my question, but many people aren’t automatically assuming SSPD’s version of transparency means full transparency, especially given the email John presented you, which is troubling even in its most generous reading. Around the country, officers have been caught saying “X” happened but further investigation showing “Y” happened, with Y being something that results in harm to a citizen and/or something that shows racism in a given department. Again, if the SSPD did everything right that night, why won’t the department or city agree to a more thorough and transparent investigation?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Andy,

        The SSPD did a thorough and ultimately transparent investigation. Please look at all the data that we released in 2014. Both Chief Veitch and I repeatedly stated that the department would cooperate fully with any further investigation by an outside agency should one occur.

        Chris Mathiesen

        Like

      2. Chris, I have reviewed all of the information released online. None of it answers the question of how the deceased injured his face. There is a lot of security footage of Caroline street, which is where the deceased first encountered the police and fled, but there is no security footage of the area where the scaffolding was. The information collected was not done so during an investigation of the deceased’s alleged fall from the scaffolding…it was collected in the investigation of Mount as a perpetrator of Domestic Violence. Any information regarding how Mount became injured is either circumstantial or hearsay. The forensic investigation, in your admission, is inconclusive and there is an independent report which conflicts with the city’s report. If you are trying to claim that the city’s release of information definitively proves that Mount died from a fall from scaffolding…[text removed by JK]. The information that you released does not prove that. Maybe a third party investigation, specifically targeted at Mount’s alleged fall, and not focusing on the charges that the city brought against him, could have definitively answered that in a way that you did not.

        Like

  6. Rob,

    I have never stated that the information gathered during the investigation into what happened on August 31, 2013 between 3:02 and 3:08 AM definitely proves that Daryl died from a fall from scaffolding. Since Darryl disappeared into a dark construction site and was not seen again by anyone until the police found him in an injured state at the base of scaffolding approximately 25 feet below where he entered the site, it can only be assumed that his injury occurred during the period that he was out of sight during his attempt to escape from the police. The investigation never concluded that Darryl definitely was injured in a fall. That was only a supposition based upon the evidence available. No one knows exactly what happened to him since no one was present to witness the injury taking place.

    While the criminal investigation into the domestic violence incident was part of the information released to the public in 2014, the SSPD went well beyond that in order to best determine what happened that night including interviews of residents of the adjacent apartment building to establish what they might have heard during the chase. The day after the incident, a local blogger was already out with accusations that the police had assaulted Darryl. The police chief and the investigators had every reason to gather as much information as possible to help dispel such malicious rumors.

    Chris Mathiesen

    Like

    1. Well, Chris, it looks like we’re at an impasse. You can choose to believe that all evidence points to Mount having fallen, based on the police’s word. I find the available evidence to be highly inconclusive and unsatisfactory, as do many in this city.

      Regardless, there’s much more at play here in the years since then. Every single city in America had protests in the summer of 2020, many of them violent and disruptive. Every city in America has a BLM chapter and many of them are just as militant as the chapter here. Not every city in America has such intense tension months and months later. The response by the SSPD and officials has been uniquely abysmal, from the pepper ball projectiles to John Catone’s press conference to the arrests and the blocking of the court. Not every police department earns public criticism from so many editorial boards and the NYCLU. You can call it a distortion, or spin, or however you want to see it. I see it as an embarrassment. I do appreciate your engagement. I wish that more of our leaders were willing to speak on these things.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s