GLENS FALLS — A public forum intended to give residents an opportunity to ask questions about the city’s proposed police reform plan was cut short on Thursday evening after several individuals disrupted the meeting with racial slurs.
The Zoom videoconference meeting had just gotten underway when the individuals began unmuting their microphones and making racist comments, and they filled the public chat room, included as part of the meeting, with typed-out racist comments, including the N-word.
“Officer, a ——— broke into my house,” one of the individuals said, using the N-word. Another voice repeated the racial slur in a question to an “officer” about shooting a trespasser on a farm.
At one point, someone asked if an officer would be willing to perform an act involving defecation, and at another, the N.W.A song “F—- the Police” could be heard.
The individuals were thrown off the meeting as quickly as possible, but more kept logging on, forcing the city to abruptly end the meeting, said Jim Clark, the city’s Fifth Ward councilman and head of its police reform committee.
“It’s disgusting and appalling,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “I’m so embarrassed. It’s ridiculous.”
Clark said the individuals who disrupted the meeting do not represent the city, but are instead part of the problem.
He’s hoping to reschedule the meeting for a later date in order to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed plan.
“We’re trying to do something good here and it’s just — it’s shameful,” Clark said.
The meeting was intended to give members of the public an opportunity to weigh in on the city’s police reform plan, which was drafted over the past five months in response to an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year in the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Floyd, a Black man, was killed while in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests, including several demonstrations in the Glens Falls area, and led Cuomo to issue the order establishing the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, requiring all police departments in the state to draft and submit reform plans to the state by April 1.
The Collaborative was designed to give the public an opportunity to probe current police procedures and suggest ways to adopt a more modern approach to policing.
Thursday’s meeting would have marked the first time that the public would have been able to speak directly with the 14-person committee tasked with drafting the city’s proposal.
The public has only weighed in on the proposed plans via email and a pair of online surveys.
Members of the committee were visibly upset as the individuals continued to hurl the racist remarks.
“Terrible,” Mayor Dan Hall said at one point.
Clark said he’s determined not to let the individuals win, and vowed to hold the meeting sometime in the future.
“I’m so sorry to the general public that attended that wanted to have a meaningful discussion,” he said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.