On August 13, 2023, people gathered in front of the Saratoga Springs downtown Post Office with, as reported by the Times Union, “messages of tolerance and vociferous support for people of color, the LGBTQ community as well as Muslims, Jews, and other targets of the extreme right.” The rally was prompted by a brief appearance downtown on August 5 by a group who identified themselves as the Proud Boys.
One might ask, who would condemn a peaceful and earnest crowd calling for tolerance?
Oddly, the answer is the local group that identifies itself as Saratoga Black Lives Matter. In a lengthy and densely worded manifesto posted on their facebook page the group states:
“…we feel compelled to speak out against the….counter protest organized by individuals on Sunday.”
[The entire BLM statement appears at the end of this post.]
BLM Objects to Organizer’s Call for Civility
Apparently one of the major objections BLM had to the rally organized by Linda LeTendre, a white woman, was the list of ground rules she announced for the event.
According to the Times Union
“The group Sunday was peaceful and the proceedings began with a list of ground rules read aloud by the organizer, Linda LeTendre. Attendees were not to vandalize, use profanity, make threats of or engage in any physical violence.”Times Union August 13, 2023
In response, BLM’s Statement called these ground rules “counterproductive and unjust“. They wrote on their facebook page:
“Setting rules for participants to be ‘respectful’ and ‘friendly’ to law enforcement during a protest…is deeply problematic.”
According to BLM Ms. LeTendre’s ground rules constituted “tone policing”. By tone policing they apparently mean, requiring participants to speak civilly to each other and the community and eschewing intemperate foul language and making threats. They wrote:
“Saratoga BLM understands that there is a clear divide between the strategies and goals of Black Liberation organizations versus many white social justice groups, however the language used when organizing this counter-rally was both counterproductive and unjust. Tone policing Black activists dismisses the deeply rooted emotions and righteous anger that arise from generations of systemic racism and oppression. Suppressing the raw and unfiltered expression of these feelings undermines the authenticity of our demands and detracts from the urgency of addressing the very issues we are protesting against.
-BLM Statement, August 17,2023
BLM Objects to Leadership Role of White People in Organizing the Rally
In their statement BLM also objects to the “…centering of white voices and their desires during the counter-protest.” According to the manifesto, attempts by white people to organize against intolerance somehow suppresses those discriminated against in our society.
The BLM post asserts that “…elevating white voices to the front inadvertently creates an environment where privileged perspectives dominate, suppressing the agency and leadership of those who are most effected by the issues at hand.“
“It is vital to understand that centering white individuals in social justice movements does not merely reflect an innocent desire for inclusivity, it can result in profound consequences that hinder progress. Instead, the path forward involves actively listening to marginalized voices, amplifying their stories, and supporting their leadership.”BLM Statement August 17, 2023
While at one point their statement acknowledges that “The struggle we are facing is a great one, which…requires collective action…” they seem to be saying here that actions should only take place under their leadership, that white leadership of any movement or organization for social justice can “hinder progress”. Would this then in their view eliminate a white trans person, a white disabled person, a white Muslim, etc. from leadership positions or does this only apply to white women?
BLM Blames Past Council Members and One Current City Official for Presence of Proud Boys
Without being specific BLM blames former Mayor Meg Kelly, former Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, and current Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino for the Proud Boys “feeling…..welcome” in Saratoga Springs.
The actions taken by individuals such as Robin Dalton, Meg Kelly, and Jim Montagnino throughout their time in office are in direct connection to neo-nazi organizations feeling as though they are welcome to come into our communities to spread (sic) biggoted messaging.BLM Statement August 17, 2023
BLM does not describe what specifically these three city officials have done to make the Proud Boys feel welcome nor do they explore why the Proud Boys also “felt welcome” in Waterford and Ballston Spa where they also marched on the same day. According to the press this particular group of Proud Boy belong to a Troy chapter which would seem to make Troy even more welcoming than Saratoga Springs. No sign of BLM calling out any of those city officials, though.