Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 04 June 2024 12:39

Lexis Figuereo, Ticketed Again By SSPD Police, Goes Toxic with Help from the Press

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

Lexis Figuereo Ticketed Yet Again

On May 29,2024, the Saratoga Springs Police Department issued a second ticket to Saratoga Black Lives Matter leader Lexis Figuereo for again, as the organizer of the demonstration, not filing a “demonstration declaration” required by the city when groups of more than 25 people plan to hold a demonstration. This action by the SSPD drew the predictable response from Figuereo that somehow his rights were being trampled on. In addition, Daily Gazette columnist Andrew Waite weighed in with another inaccurate piece, in which he managed to misrepresent just about everything.

The Latest Saratoga BLM Press Conference and Demonstration

On May 25, 2024, BLM organized a press conference in Congress Park and a demonstration.

Lexis Figuereo was among the speakers. As the following clips document, he announced that the local BLM group would continue to block the streets and disrupt City Council meetings. More troubling, he announced, “We will be disrupting businesses. We will make sure you do not get your money.

A Reporter questions Figuereo

The number of participants in his events continues to dwindle. At this event, there were only approximately thirty people.

Interestingly, in contrast to previous actions, when the group left the park, they used the sidewalks rather than the streets. Of particular note, Mr. Figuereo stayed behind in the park.

Mr. Figuereo had previously been issued a ticket as the organizer of the demonstration for failing to submit the required city form for a May 1 BLM demonstration. The form is called a “demonstration declaration.” The city requires that the form be submitted prior to the public announcement of demonstrations. The purpose of the document is to inform the city prior to the event as to when and where the demonstration will take place. It also includes information as to prohibited activities such as carrying weapons, wearing masks, failing to clean up following events, etc. By signing the form, the organizer of the event acknowledges these requirements.

There is no charge for the form, but the organizer of the event is subject to a fine or brief jail time if they fail to comply with its timely submission.

Mr. Figuereo is currently suing the city in federal court over alleged civil rights violations. He has repeatedly announced that the money he anticipates receiving from the success of his suit will fund his children’s college tuition.

I presume his decision to stay in the park rather than join the march this time was based on his attorney’s advice that flagrantly violating the city’s code again would not help his lawsuit.

The strategy seemed to be to have someone else lead the march down Broadway to try to argue that Lex was not the organizer. His decision to remain in the park rather than join the march contrasted with his declarations at the press conference that he planned to disrupt the city streets, City Council meetings, and local businesses.

That Ruse Didn’t Work

Unfortunately for Mr. Figuereo, this ruse did not work. He failed to consider that it was possible to organize a demonstration even if he didn’t participate in all of it. BLM put out the call for the event, and Figuereo is the acknowledged head of the organization. So, on May 29, he was issued yet another ticket for failing to submit this same form, a demonstration declaration.

This is all such stunning folly. What, one must ask, is the problem with simply filling out a simple one-page form that doesn’t even have a fee attached? What profound principle would be violated by adhering to this modest requirement? While the form was included in a recent post, here it is again.

By my count, this form has twenty questions that can be answered without any research. I would estimate that this form can be filled out in less than two minutes.

If refusing to fill out this form is of such ethical and political importance, why not proudly announce his refusal at the press conference and share with the public the reasoning for his resistance rather than pretending he was not the organizer of the event?

Making Toxic Remarks Does Not Constitute Building A Social Movement

Mr. Figuereo told the reporters at his press conference that “we will not be deterred. We will not be shushed (SIC) bullied. This ain’t the sixties.

I presume that when Mr. Figuereo announced that “this ain’t the sixties,” he was referring to the tactics of the movement built by Martin Luther King that emphasized love and civility in the face of brutal suppression. Mr. Figuereo has made it clear by his own conduct that his group rejects King’s tactics and believes that its grievances entitle them to the righteous anger they express when using crude insults and epithets. Similarly, he feels that there is no need to endure arrest or other indignity at the hands of authority, as did King, Gandhi, and their followers.

The dwindling number of participants in his group’s actions attests to the folly of his approach. (The Skidmore semester has ended for the summer.)

Regrettably, he confuses his media coverage, the praise offered by some cynical local politicians, and his success in the courts with social change.

As a person who participated in the social justice struggles of the past, I can assure the readers of this blog that the culture was very different. The question of how to build a mass movement for change was vigorously debated. Young people argued over whether wearing ties and jackets and knocking on doors in an effort to support Eugene McCarthy’s campaign against Lyndon Johnson was more effective than street demonstrations in opposing the war in Vietnam. Many worked in urban centers organizing for such basic services as decent trash collection. Others dedicated themselves to assisting miners seeking compensation for black lung disease.

As has been documented extensively, Figuereo does not engage, nor does he articulate thoughtful, achievable goals to work towards; he harangues.

The key point for activists used to be achieving the trust and respect of the people asked to support change.

Mr. Figuereo does not lack courage, but he seems to have no sense that his methods serve only to isolate his group rather than expand it.

The Israel/Palestine Conflict and BLM

One of the issues Figuereo and BLM have recently embraced is the issue of the events unfolding in Gaza.

As noted in an earlier post, I feel strongly that Israel’s response to the horrific violence of October 7 has itself been appalling. The interview on CNN by Fareed Zachariah of Aryeh Neier, the founder of Human Rights Watch expresses my concerns better than I can.

Mr. Neier, who is eighty-seven and a Jew, escaped Nazi Germany as a child. His first response to the events of October 7 was to come to the support of Israel, but over time, the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the West Bank has caused him to rethink that support.

This is a brief recording of the interview.

The support offered by BLM to the plight of Palestinians, rather than contributing to bringing about a ceasefire and some kind of resolution to this catastrophe, is counter-productive. Mr. Figuereo’s toxic behavior makes his association with any cause problematic.

Rather than dismissing ” the 60s,” Mr. Figuereo would help himself and this community if he took the time to seriously consider the writings of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. While both men did not end injustice, they had great achievements in their lives before they were assassinated.

Good organizers listen rather than berate. Listening is one of the greatest tools for seeking justice.

More Sloppy Talk From Andrew Waite (AKA Uncle Frank)

In a past post regarding a column by Andrew Waite, this blogger pointed out its inaccuracies and its illogical assertions. The post compared Waite to the archetypal character Uncle Frank, who dominates the Thanksgiving dinner with his uninformed ideas and his cringing attempts at wit.

In the May 31,2024, edition of the Daily Gazette, Waite opines on Lexis Figuereo’s ticketing for failing to adhere to the city’s requirement for a “demonstration declaration.” As with Uncle Frank, Waited does not mince words.

Issuing that violation was ludicrous and hypocritical,” he pronounces.

Waite Channels Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway famously defended President Donald Trump’s press secretary when he was nabbed for his repeated errors by characterizing his references as “alternative facts.” This would seem to be an apt description of many of Mr. Waite’s comments. For instance, he writes:

“Perhaps even more dismaying than the existence of the Saratoga Springs rule is that it has been wielded against some but not others.”

Waite referencing the Proud Boys brief demo in August of 2023 as an example of unfairly singling out Figuereo

The column acknowledges that the Proud Boys event preceded Tim Coll’s term as Commissioner of Public Safety, but the clear implication is that this is an ongoing injustice.

A rigorous journalist might have asked Coll how many demonstration declarations have been submitted appropriately since he began his term in January. The answer is four. BLM is the only organization that has failed to comply during Coll’s term.

Waite continues:

“With the Saratoga Springs Police Department issuing two violations this month to Saratoga Black Lives Matter co-founder Lexis Figuereo regarding a 2005 city rule that requires groups to obtain a “demonstration declaration” before a public protest, Coll and Safford were clearly hoping to limit the possibility of being caught off guard by protests during Belmont weekend.”

Waite May 31, 2024

I find this statement particularly telling. Of course, Coll and Safford do not want to be “caught off guard”- during Belmont or any other time. That is the very purpose of the form. The city needs to be prepared with appropriate staffing to handle any disruption associated with a demonstration and ensure that the demonstration does not violate the prohibitions set out in the demonstration declaration form. It’s called “planning.”

The purpose of the form, as repeatedly documented on this blog site, is to ensure the safety of the demonstrators and the public. In the past, that has meant having enough officers on hand to direct traffic so as to protect the demonstrators from being hit by some crazy driver when they take to the streets and from any bystanders who might try to assault them.

But by using an arcane rule that arguably violates free speech to target one individual, the mayor and public safety leader have only fueled anger in a way that increases the likelihood of unrest during one of the most prominent sporting events Saratoga Springs will ever host.

Waite May 31, 2024

“…arguably violates free speech”? ?Waite’s characterization of the requirement for a demonstration declaration shows his lack of rigor and professionalism. He never explains exactly how free speech is violated when demonstrators went ahead with their press conference and march uninterrupted with only a minor ticket issued later. “Arcane”? As noted above, it has been used regularly during this administration and, putting aside the actions of BLM and the Proud Boys, respected and adhered to for almost twenty years without controversy. No group has ever before complained that filing the “demonstration declaration” violated their 1st Amendment right of freedom of speech.

It would seem to me that any thoughtful reporter would have asked Figuereo why he refused to submit the simple form. I attribute this failure to Waite’s obsession with the rule as punitive. Asking that question would acknowledge that it might have some purpose and would undermine the story Waite wanted to tell.

Waite continues:

The very existence of the rule is deeply troubling. The American Civil Liberties Union says protests don’t need permits and that if a protest does block traffic, police can request that participants move to the sidewalk. There have been no reports that this happened on May 1.

Waite May 31, 2024

In this excerpt, he assumes that the form somehow determines whether a group can demonstrate. He should take the time to actually read the form and its accompanying document. Not submitting this form does not bar a group from protesting. However, failing to submit the declaration as required does subject the organizer to penalties.

In fact, Commissioner Coll went out of his way to make sure Figuereo understood he needed to submit the form by advising Figuereo’s attorney beforehand. It had no effect.

It is a testament to the madness of our times that Figuereo apparently thinks he is making some kind of important statement by refusing to submit this simple form and that his inaction is both defended and amplified by a lengthy column in what is otherwise a good newspaper.

Dillon Moran’s Dubious Quote

“Next weekend is certainly an important weekend for the community,” said Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran. “These violations only serve to antagonize and create unrest that will not be helpful to our community or the image that we present to our visitors and the world that will be watching.”

Commissioner Moran’s Accounts Department is responsible for managing demonstration declarations. He recently sent back the form to the Saratoga County CSEA, which is planning to demonstrate concerning its current impasse in negotiations with the county during the Belmont, for missing information.

Is Moran suggesting Coll not apply the law to BLM in hopes that that favor will make BLM reciprocate by not demonstrating during the Belmont, which, in Moran’s view, would hurt the city’s image?

If Moran wants to repeal the provision requiring the “declaration,” he is welcome to try to do so. It would be very interesting to listen to a Council debate on this. In fact, I very much doubt he will ever take any action.

As the elected official who took an oath to abide by and carry out the city’s laws, which include these declarations, Moran should be the first one to insist on consistent compliance with a regulation his department is responsible for.

Suggesting that Coll should not enforce the city’s code in the case of BLM’s non-compliance is unprofessional and unethical.

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