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Politicians respond to protests with symbolism

Jun 12, 2020 6:33 am
Mass protests continue in the streets, but the reactions and responses to them keep changing every day. On June 11 the conversation was about symbols, with politicians talking about taking down Confederate statues, and some protesters around the country pulling them down themselves. In Albany, Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the city would take down the statue of Revolutionary War general and New York senator Philip Schuyler from its location in front of City Hall. Sheehan said Schuyler owned slaves, when she signed an executive order taking the statue off the streets to be given to a "museum or other institution for future display with the appropriate historical context." Schuyler, whose Schuyler Mansion sits on Catherine Street in Albany, was born in the city in 1733. He was also the father-in-law of the nation's first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. He was also, "reportedly the largest owner of enslaved people in Albany during his time," a press release from the City of Albany said. There is also a town in Saratoga County -- Schuylerville -- on the site of the family's old estate. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he does not want the statute of Christopher Columbus in Manhattan taken down. "Governor Cuomo’s eloquence in response to the anti-racism movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd apparently does not extend to the genocide and enslavement those first transatlantic voyages initiated and which continue to underpin the oppression of Indigenous peoples to this day," said Betty Lyons, president of the American Indian Law Alliance, and an Onondaga Nation citizen. North Colonie school officials have now changed the names of the halls at Shaker Junior High School after a former student pointed out that three of four building wings were named for slave owners. The halls were named after John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Sam Houston, all of whom owned slaves. Patrick Messac, a black Shaker High alumnus, sent a letter to school officials, which prompted the change. While a few statues came down, other symbols went up, as Rochester began painting a "Black Lives Matter" street, and Hudson announced initial plans for a similar project. There were also more large protests June 11 in Saugerties and Schenectady. Protesters at Schenectady City Hall had a list of 13 demands for city lawmakers. And there are many more protests scheduled this weekend. On June 12 protesters will gather in Albany's Washington Park at 1 p.m. for a Teach in and March for Black Lives. Guilderland also has a Rally for Black Lives at 5 p.m. on June 12. On Saturday, there are protests at 9 a.m. at West Point where President Donald Trump will address graduates at the U.S. Military Academy. There's also a Black Lives Matter march at 12:30 p.m. in Saratoga Springs at Congress Park, and a Black Lives Matter Peace Rally at 1 p.m. in Cohoes. Saratoga also has a 5 p.m. Black Lives Matter gathering at city hall. On June 14 at noon, Marlborough hosts a Let's Make a Difference Together! event in Cluett Schantz Memorial Park, and Hastings-on-Hudson also has an event. There is a Walk/Jog/Run for Change event at 1 p.m. in Gloversville at Darling Field, and a Walden Black Lives Matter Protest and March at 1:30 p.m. in Bradley Park.