When writing about the South Station Occupation and events that have transpired in Albany since April 14, 2021, I have up until now made a crucial mistake. I did my best to outline events that others are also documenting, as they occur. As you’ll see in this article, events taking shape now have been at least a year in the making. Yet there is an important context I failed to provide. A friend, also a white woman, reminded me of this on Facebook this morning.
She posted in response to one of my updates regarding the peaceful occupation of the side street outside the APD South Station for almost a week and brutal police response, that she is “with the protestors” but that she didn’t approve of their use of profanity toward police. This made it clear, in outlining the peaceful occupation by community members of a city street, I failed to provide the needed context of a larger, long standing, and far more ominous occupation.
So, let’s begin there.
Albany’s South End is a vibrant diverse community consisting of a majority of Black residents and People of Color, yet like many cities nationwide, it is heavily policed by a majority white police force who do not have personal ties to the area. If you aren’t personally familiar with the South End, it is the location of both the City Rescue Mission (near the South Station) and a number of mental health and other services. Yet outside the bounds of bureaucracy, it is also home to residents whose imagination, resourcefulness, compassion, and commitment to creating safe spaces for the community has given rise to grassroots organizing, a thriving community garden, free food refrigerators (a project started by local activist Jamella Anderson, whose work gained recognition in March, featured on the cover of Time magazine).
These details are important. These are the details that are often overlooked as media, politicians and “good white liberal” organizations characterize the South End disparagingly, completely dismissing the successful mutual aid and organizing work happening on the ground level by members of the community who are invested in protecting and helping each other.
For media to report that relationships between the community and police are “tense” is as dismissive as reporting that relationships between a batterer and their battered partner are “tense.” That is to say, such generalizations ignore the trauma and violence Albany Police in the South Station have inflicted on residence of the…