ALBANY - They gathered Saturday at Townsend Park, just as they had three days before.
Are we ready? Legacy Casanova asked the crowd of protesters, most wearing black, many carrying signs that professed the grief and anger that has enveloped so many across the city and nation.
They walked down Lark Street, where business employees peered outside and saw raised fists, raised signs and heard raised voices that screamed, Matter! each time the words Black lives were spoken.
When is this going to stop? Nahshon McLaughlin asked as he walked past the giant yellow Black Lives Matter mural painted last summer, a marker that reminded him of the last time he was here protesting, chanting different names of Black Americans killed by police: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd.
And now here he was again, over half a year later, chanting new names Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo walking atop a mural that was fading away.
Its sadness. This is just anger and sadness, he said.
The scores of activists and supporters eventually converged at the South Station on Arch Street, the scene of a confrontation Wednesday evening.
Casanova told the protesters not to climb or even touch the rail at the South Station an action that police said escalated tensions at the last protest.
As evening settled the scene was calm outside the station, with protesters singing and marching. No police were seen stepping outside, though at least two could be seen on the roof. The rails leading to the entrance were empty of people.
Three days ago the similar demonstration culminated in the brief clash between police officers and demonstrators, where officers deployed pepper spray and a window was broken by some protesters. City officials held a news conference about Wednesday's protest on Friday, describing the gathering as a "riot."
Protesters were peacefully chanting as night fell, with leaders reminding people to pick up their trash. Many criticized Mayor Kathy Sheehanfor her comments equating the clash Wednesday in Albany to the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
What she said made me sick, one protester said.
Lukee Forbes, a community leader, said officers not being outside dramatically helped with deescalating tensions.
Police not being here is whats going to keep this from escalating, he said. Thats what gets tensions high: when police are here.
Many protesters promised to return to the station and continue protesting until the officer who pushed at a womans megaphone on Wednesday is fired.
Kat Reyefico, 29, was at the station on Wednesday. She wasnt hit with pepper spray, she said, but her friends were, and as she tried to help them, she inhaled the residue from the chemicals. She was beginning to have an asthma attack, she said. She borrowed he friends inhaler, and promised herself she would return again on Saturday.
This is where Im supposed to be, she said, playing a drum she had borrowed from the heavy metal band shes in. She was giving rhythm to the chants, providing a beat for the people who yelled again and again: No justice, no peace.
The Albany march came a few hours after another gathering in Troy.
Under different circumstances, the gathering under the Collar City Bridge Saturday afternoon could have been mistaken for a family reunion. Music played, kids drew with chalk on the asphalt, and people passed out snacks and water. A large table loaded with flowers below a large banner reading "Black Lives Matter" taped to bridge supports and signs in the crowd with messages like, "Abolish Racism in Troy PD or Abolish the Troy PD" revealed the event as both a memorial and a call to action. There were no uniformed police present.
Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the day Edson Thevenin, 37, was killed by a Troy police officer during a traffic stop on the road above the crowd of roughly 150. The police officer who shot Thevenin, Sgt. Randall French, was cleared of wrongdoing.
The case roiled Troy, and people who spoke at the Spring into Action: Rally 4 Black Life gathering Saturday said the pain they feel over what they see is a lack of justice in the Thevenin case has only been worsened by the subsequent deaths of people of color at the hands of police, both locally and nationally.
Luz Marquez, a founder of Troy4BlackLives and a cosponsor of the event, spoke passionately, urging the crowd to keep raising their voices for Black lives and keep up pressure on the city's elected leaders.
"If you want to stop gun violence, stop white supremacy," Marquez said, adding her voice to others Saturday to defund the police.
Angela Beallor, a founder of Reimagine Troy, said as a white person, she has had interactions with police, but lived to tell the tale. Black and brown people often do not. Jessica Ashley read a statement from Gertha Depas, Thevenin's mother.
"Five years have not eased the pain, they have intensified the struggle," Ashley read. "The power is always in the hands of the people and change comes when we speak up."
Other speakers included Messiah Cooper, whose nephew, Dahmeek McDonald, was shot by police in 2017. Cooper said what he sees as his failure to act in the past is what motivates him to do so now. It's important, he said, not only to stand up for people because they are a friend or a relative, but simply because it's the right thing to do.
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