Charges Against BLM Leader Who Interrupted Council Meeting In Region Spark ‘Disbelief, Outrage'

City leaders in the region expressed “disbelief and outrage” over the decision to file a criminal complaint against a prominent Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader for interrupting a city council meeting.

Chandler Hickenbottom, a prominent activist with Saratoga Black Lives Matter, is facing a criminal complaint for interrupting a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Chandler Hickenbottom, a prominent activist with Saratoga Black Lives Matter, is facing a criminal complaint for interrupting a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Photo Credit: Facebook/Saratoga Black Lives Matter

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino filed the complaint with the city’s police department asking for a summons to be issued to Chandler Hickenbottom, a leader of Saratoga Black Lives Matter.

The complaint accuses Hickenbottom of disorderly conduct for disrupting a council meeting that was held on Tuesday, Feb. 7, according to a city statement.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim decried the move in a statement Thursday, Feb. 23, calling it “a misguided overreach,” “counterproductive to a continued dialogue with all members of our community” and “a waste of city resources.”

“The BLM activist who interrupted our meeting on February 7, 2023 acted in an irresponsible manner and I condemn any outbursts by a community member at our public meetings, but I do not believe it was criminal or requires any consideration by the Courts,” he said.

Video posted on the Saratoga Black Lives Matter Facebook page shows Hickenbottom addressing the council during a public comment session.

She is heard criticizing several candidates for police chief and accuses the department of being responsible for the death of Darryl Mount, a black man who died after an encounter with officers in August 2013.

Hickenbottom also accused councilmembers of not doing enough to advance BLM’s agenda, despite the Black community’s support during elections.

“You wanted us to make sure we put you in power and then you did nothing with the power that you currently have,” she is heard saying. “You do exactly what you can to get the Black vote so that we can go ahead and put you in power and then you do nothing for the Black community.”

Council members can be heard telling Hickenbottom to “wrap up” her comments, to which the activist replies, “No, I don’t think I want to.” She was asked to sit down again, but continued standing at the microphone.

The meeting was ultimately adjourned after several people in the audience began shouting at each other.

Three members of the Saratoga Springs City Council also issued statements Thursday, expressing their “disbelief and outrage” at Montagnino’s decision, describing it as “flaming the fans of the already contentious relationship between BLM and the city.”

“BLM and the protests we’ve seen locally and nationally over the past few years give voice to a problem that must be taken seriously, and not dismissed by leaders,” Councilmember Jason Golub said.

In his statement Thursday, Mayor Kim said Commissioner Montagnino had informed him that he was planning to file the complaint against Hickenbottom, and he had asked him not to.

“However, under the unfortunate commission form of government, he alone has the final say in this action.”

Kim said he proposed several changes to the meeting format following the incident to “enhance and expand our ability to have productive dialogue with the community.”

They include extending the time for public comment and the convening of a “Mayor’s Community Forum” that would be held once a month and would focus on specific topics of interest to the community.

“I respectfully call upon the Commissioner of Public Safety to withdraw this summons and join me in continuing to find common ground with all members of our community.”

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