Saratoga Springs, New York AG, BLM

New York AG Concerned City Of Saratoga Springs Is Retaliating Against Saratoga BLM

After concerns that the City of Saratoga Springs is engaging in a pattern of retaliatory behavior against the group's co-founder Lexis Figureo and Saratoga BLM protests.

The conflict between the Saratoga Black Lives Matter movement and the City of Saratoga Springs has reached the New York State Attorney General’s Office. After concerns that the city is allegedly engaging in a pattern of retaliatory behavior against the group’s co-founder Lexis Figuereo and Saratoga BLM protests, Letitia James’s office requested that the city turn over all documentation about two citations it issued against Figuereo in May. 

As the Daily Gazette reported, Rick Sawyer, a section chief with the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, sent a letter to the city’s attorneys on June 13, the same day Figuereo appeared in court for the citations. According to its reporting, the letter references incidents of former city officials violating the rights of protesters during the summer of 2021. 

“The OAG has reviewed troubling reports that, in May 2023, the SSPD issued desk appearance tickets to a protest organizer in connection with two non-violent protests,” the letter stated. “Those tickets allege violations of Saratoga Springs ordinances that purportedly require individuals to give notice to the city before engaging in First Amendment-protected activity. Given the findings of the OAG’s report, which described retaliatory arrests against the same individual, the OAG is concerned that the city of Saratoga Springs has resumed its unconstitutional retaliation against protestors.”

The letter states that the documents will be turned over to the Attorney General’s office by July 8. Figuereo, meanwhile, told the Daily Gazette that he feels “justified” by the contents of the letter, saying that it constitutes proof of his group’s claims. “This is what we’ve been saying the whole time,” Figuereo told the outlet. Figuereo also maintained that he wants to see the City of Saratoga Springs adopt the guidelines laid out by the Attorney General’s office, which requires the city to protect First Amendment rights. The guidelines also mandate that the city’s police department adopt policies that prevent officer misconduct. 

Figuereo was issued two citations in May, the first regarding a May 1 demonstration organized by Saratoga BLM and the Skidmore Coalition for Palestine, the Palestinian Rights Committee of Albany, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation that called for a ceasefire in Gaza and a free Palestinian state. Public Safety Commissioner Tim Coll issued the second citation after a May 25 gathering to honor the memory of George Floyd. Figuereo, however, did not participate in the gathering; only held a press conference preceding the gathering. 

According to a statement released by Coll on June 14, the city has received the letter, and Coll’s department, in particular, is “fully cooperating.” Coll’s statement continued, “Since the matter with the OAG is pending and involves ongoing negotiations, I am constrained from responding further. However, upon resolution, DPS will provide a complete accounting of the facts to the public.”

Figuereo appeared in court for the citations on May 13, but the case was postponed until Aug. 1 due to his lawyer, Mark Mishler, arguing that the city did not provide him the “proper legal accusatory instruments.” In a statement issued on June 14, Mishler argued that the city is continuing its efforts to “single out and penalize” Figureo for utilizing his First Amendment right to protest.

“We are gratified that the AG’s office sees the most recent acts by the City — attempting to single-out and penalize Lexis Figuereo for ‘organizing’ two peaceful and constitutionally protected rallies — for what they are, blatant infringements on the constitutional rights of Mr. Figuereo, all Saratoga BLM activists and leaders, and, in fact, all who believe in the necessity of speaking out against injustice.”

In addition to Mishler, Figuereo addressed the actions of Saratoga Springs officials in his own statement, given to CBS 6 News.

“What this is, is exactly what we knew it was going to be, retribution for the Attorney General’s report that they don’t like, retribution for the lawsuits against Saratoga Springs, that they continue to bring upon Saratoga Springs, this is retribution for all of that. In the AG’s report it says you are not allowed to make an arrest because of protests, so since they can’t make an arrest for protests, now they’re going to do violations for protests. They’re going to try to figure out something to do. Once again, it’s the old playbook; it’s nothing new. People of Saratoga Springs who are sick of hearing us scream for our Black lives wanted them to come here and do exactly what they said they were going to do before, which was get rid of and dismantle BLM. We refuse to do so. We’re going to keep our eyes on the real enemy inside this building.”

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