TROY — Protests sweeping the Capital Region came to Troy on Sunday where thousands gathered to march against police brutality and systematic racism.
Organizers put the number at 11,000.
Thousands gathered at Riverfront Park to listen to speakers at a rally that took on a bloc party-type atmosphere.
People lined the streets, a nearby parking garage and watched from surrounding buildings and music blasted and people sat on blankets.
But there were some tense moments when organizers at Riverfront Park caught wind of a dueling march and abruptly led attendees to the city Police Station on 3rd Street, where many demanded the four-dozen officers guarding the complex to take a knee.
They refused, standing calm and declining to engage with organizers, many of whom recounted past abuses.
Others chanted, “No justice, no peace. F**k these racist-ass police.”
Officers bolstered presence outside the station by 7:15 p.m. as officers cruised the streets amid packs roaming motorcycles.
While peaceful, authorities intercepted a group of people wearing fatigue type clothing and have launched an investigation.
The group made its way up Ferry Street to the city station garage on 6th Ave before being stopped.
“Some of the members of the group were armed with handguns,” said Deputy Chief of Police Daniel DeWolf.
The group is still being questioned regarding their motives and if the weapons are legally possessed, DeWolf said, while three vehicles belonging to the group were also towed for further investigation.
Thousands marched downtown before returning to Riverfront Park, while smaller groups ventured back and forth between the two sites as tensions flared throughout the afternoon.
Organizers with Justice for Dahmeek, the grassroots group taking the lead on the event, returned to the site shortly before 6 p.m. and urged the growing crowd to clear out in effort to diffuse tension.
“Our main goal is to keep this peaceful,” said Shawn Young, an organizer with Citizens Action of New York.
Troy is the last major Capital Region city to host a large-scale protest, following massive events in Albany and Schenectady throughout the week.
Justice for Dahmeek was formed to demand accountability following the police shooting of Dahmeek McDonald in 2017, who was shot and injured after driving towards police who were attempting to apprehend him on a parole violation.
A subsequent investigation cleared the officer.
The grassroots group also continue to push for justice for Edson Thevenin, who was shot and killed by a Troy police sergeant in 2016.
“For six days, we were held emotionally hostage as we were waiting for answers from you,” said his mother, Gertha Depas.
She questioned why minorities continue to be in police crosshairs despite their role as essential workers in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re trying to protect you while you’re trying to kill us,” Depas said.
Danielle Williams called for more scrutiny of jails, and alleged a family member was subjected to mistreatment when trying to expose conditions.
“They target, harass and provoke for reactions but then they beat the hell out of the inmates,” Williams said.
Young urged the crowd to remember those behind bars and called for reform to the nation’s mass incarceration system.
“We abolished slavery except for those who committed a crime,” Young said. “It’s justice for all of us or justice for no one.”
There was no overt police presence at Riverfront Park, where the gathering unfolded between trendy riverside apartments and brick relics modding to the Collar City’s industrial past
The demonstration also showed signs of a rapidly maturing movement, with medics with red Xs taped to their arms manning two stations and sign language interpreters.
Following skirmishes in Albany and widespread looting in New York City, businesses have been boarded up for a week in the Collar City, a measure that drew criticism from Justice for Dameek.
“City officials have egged on landlords and businesses to spend thousands of dollars on plywood against whom?” said the group in a statement. “Who has threatened them? Are they afraid because Edson Thevein’s blood is on their hands? Do they have something to hide from the people who pay their salaries with our taxes?”
Organizers also excoriated a “capitalist media” they contend has been lax on overpolicing and abuses.
“We’ve been trying to talk with them for three years,” said Luz Marquez, an activist with Justice for Dameek, ahead of the event.
City police said they were “appalled” by the actions of the four Minneapolis police who were arrested and changed with George Floyd’s killing on May 25, which lit the match on nationwide protests calling for police reform.
“We will listen to what is said and work together to create positive change,” said city Police in a statement issued late Saturday.