Enough is enough: shut it down, a march for Donald Ivy
By Nick Muscavage
April 7, 2014
Crowds of people gathered to peacefully protest at the corner of Arch and Broad Street outside the South Station of Albany Police Department on April 3, 2015. This corner is less than a 10-minute drive from Lark and Second Street where Donald Ivy, 39, was tasered by three Albany police officers less than 24 hours before the protest in the early morning of April 3. Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, an group dedicated to stopping the racist, sexist, and classist system of mass incarceration, organized the protest.
Angelica Clarke, a key-organizing member of Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, has been active in spreading awareness for social issues since 2012.
“It has to actually be a community based solution. The security and the creation of safety in a community has to come from right at a community level. It has to be holistic, it can’t just be about who’s defending the laws and who’s defending whatever perceived danger there is,” she said. She also explained that it has to go beneath what is causing the danger in communities. “We’re here to do new and different kinds of work to get new and different kinds of changes out here,” Clarke said.
Donald “Dontay” Ivy was 39-years-old when he died from being tasered by Albany Police officers Michael Mahany, Joshua Sears and Charles Skinkle, who allegedly approached him for suspicious activity. The police have yet to say why exactly Ivy, an African-American man, was being stopped other than “suspicious activity.” Friends and family of Ivy have since to state that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
The sidewalk across from the South Station was filled with people of races and ages. There were children in strollers as well as people with canes. Yellow signs held high that read, “Black Lives Matter #Shutitdown,” were a prominent sight. One woman named Danielle W., who was holding two of these signs above her head, said that she has been living in Albany for 40 years.
“I feel as though there is still an unfairness, an injustice and a lot of danger,” she said. “We did the Michael Brown March, we did the Kokopellis march and I still see people dying,” she said.
Another man, Musa Zwana, was attending the protest with his wife and his daughter.
“Talk is cheap. You can tell me a million times ‘Oh I’m so sorry,’ you can tell me a million times, ‘Oh, we’re going to change,’ but the next time one of my friends, or one of my cousins, or one of my neighbors die, we’re right back, nothing’s changed,” Zwana said.
Zwana went on, “I will keep up with the Black Lives Matter story because all black lives matter. Donald’s, Trey, they all matter.”
Klil Meori, another attendee, explained that he didn’t have too much information of the group Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration but said that he was there because a neighbor of his was killed right down the street from his house.
“I’m only here because somebody was tased very close to where I live and if it were a white guy it would get a lot more exposure,” he said.
“Black lives matter,” were the first words chanted into a megaphone by Councilman Mark Robinson.
“I represent the district where a life was taken. The family is grieving at this point so they won’t be here,” he said. He also illustrated how Donald Ivy only lived 500 feet away from where he was tasered.
“When asked what’s his charge the answer was resisting arrest and obstructing government administration,” Robinson said. He said that there was no 9-1-1 call, there was no crime in the area at the time of Ivy’s death, and that Albany Police do not have sensitivity to the black community.
“But one thing they do have is a badge and a gun,”said Robinson. His speech concluded with the same chant it began with, “Black lives matter,” and to this the crowd joined in unison until it was one steady beat for about fifty voices, with a drum keeping rhythm.
The next speaker, Alex McNeil, whose rapper alter ego is known as Zae Biggz, said that he happened to come across the scene the night of Ivy’s death. When he asked what was going on he was told a standoff had occurred.
“A standoff means that someone has a gun, and the police have a gun. Now there was no weapon found, there was no gun. When I arrived to the scene, I didn’t see no ambulance,”said McNeil.
The protest made its way up South Pearl Street to the front stairs of Albany City Hall, a route a little under one mile and just under a 20 minute walk. McNeil, marching in front of a banner that read, “Never Again,” with an image of a black fist on it, could be heard reverberating every phrase that was chanted in his booming voice, “Black lives matter,” and “Mass Incarceration, shut it down.”
As the group winded its way up South Pearl Street, the megaphone was handed around so other people could start a new chant or say something. The body of protesters that was once around fifty people standing outside APD’s South Station grew to a mobile mass of around 200 people in the early minutes of the march. This number would still grow as more and more people joined in on the trek to Albany City Hall.
Once outside Albany City Hall, some leaders of the march stood up on the front steps with a six-foot-long cardboard sign held up behind them that said “Disarm” in large, black capital letters.
At this point various speakers took turns speaking to the crowd through the megaphone from the top of City Hall’s steps. Some speakers shared personal anecdotes of Ivy and some shared anecdotes of their own run-in with racist policing. Some speakers talked about other events that took place and that are planned to take place. Some speakers just wanted consolation for their grief.
“I’ve got a question for this crowd. On Monday, I held a meeting in West Hill, a block away from where this young man was killed, in that meeting the Mayor’s office was there – her top operative was there, the police department was there, their top operative on street crime was there and community policing – where were you?” said Marlon Anderson.
To this, a woman in the audience yelled out, “We suffering everyday, we’re here right now,” and someone else yelled, “It’s not our community’s fault, it’s the police’s fault. They need to change their approach of dealing with our communities and that’s a real issue.”
“You’re here right now but we got to be there before, we got to stop being there after someone’s life is taken,” said Anderson before stepping down from the steps and handing over the megaphone.
Another speaker was a woman in a wheelchair, who said she was 78-years-old, said the she was tired of the same stories being told of police killing young African Americans.
“It’s time for a change… My generation, we have gone through a lot, and the generation before that, and we did not do without so that you guys could do without. We did it so that you guys would have an opportunity to live as everyone else,” she said.
Another speaker drew correlations with between the Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration movement and the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights movement. A representative from the Social Justice center mentioned that community involvement needs to be encouraged and brought up an event taking place at the Albany City Hall next Monday April 6, 2015, and urged people to attend.
Terrell Merritt, who had grown up with Donald Ivy and even lived with him at one point, described Ivy’s life and mental state from a first hand experience.
“[He] was a real person and he mattered, just like everyone here,” Merritt said. “He lived with me, we lived together, we grew up together, we stayed in the same house and he was so messed up at a certain point I couldn’t even give him a hug,” he said.
Merritt explained that Donald, who was also called Dontay, didn’t like to be touched at all, so it would make sense that if three police officers approached him and attempted to apprehend him that he would get scared.
“He was going to check his ATM to see if his money was in there,” Merrit explained. “Dontay was a real person, he would give you the last [clothes] off his back,” he said. When Merritt came off of the steps, he was approached by various members of the crowd that hugged him as his head fell into their shoulders.
On the march back to APD’s South Station on Arch and Broad street, the chants continued: “Racist police, get them out of our streets,” “Hey, hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go,” and “No justice, no peace, disarm the police.”
People stood outside of storefronts and hung outside of apartment windows to wave and show their support. Their voices along with the protesters’ echoed through the city streets as they marched down South Pearl Street.
The crowd made its back to the South Station where they peacefully dispersed at 9 p.m., wishing everyone a safe drive home and reminding each other of the next organized event outside City Hall on Monday..