Black Lives Matter plans a rally Saturday in Cortland in response to a recent news conference in Binghamton at which sheriffs’ agencies lobbied for protections for police officers, which organization leaders found offensive in light of its own efforts to curb abuses by police.
The rally will be noon at the Cortland County Courthouse, said Mechthild Nagel, coordinator of United Voices, a local organization that supports Black Lives Matter.
Nagel added that similar rallies have been in Chenango and Broome counties, so far.
“If they’re going to have their meetings, we’ll have our meetings to make our voices heard,” she said.
The 10 proposals presented July 15 by the sheriffs include new criminal charges of aggravated offering a false accusation against a police officer, failure to retreat, criminal doxing of police or peace officer, resisting arrest, stalking a police or peace officer, and aggravated harassment of police or peace officer and assault on a police officer.
Doxing is posting private or identifying information about an individual online with malicious intent.
They also propose making May 15 a state holiday honoring police officers who died in the line of duty and creating a death benefit for police officers.
Members of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, including Cortland County Undersheriff Budd Rigg, had the news conference in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice and police reform, in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“We were not happy with the comments made by the sheriffs,” Nagel said Thursday. Broome County Sheriff David Harder, said Nagel, faulted Floyd’s actions during the arrest, saying he was defiant.
Nagel said the sheriffs’ 10 proposals have been introduced as bills, except for aggravated harassment of a police or peace officer and assault on a police officer.
“We took a keen interest on how the sheriffs’ proposals were laid out,” she said. “We take this very seriously in response to the situation.”
While Rigg was at the news conference, Nagel said the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office has shown its support for the local Black Lives Matter movement in the past.
“I’m seriously disappointed,” Nagel said. “I thought we had a different relationship with our sheriff. We’ve had good relationships with the sheriff’s department over the years and we’ve even talked about ending racial profiling and injustice.”
Helms did not comment Thursday on the planned rally or the sheriffs’ news conference and could not be reached this morning.
The Black Lives Matter release also said the state “does not need any of these proposed changes, but instead needs a plan to make police less necessary and ensure police accountability to the communities they serve.”
“The tone of the sheriffs is so intimidating to us so we want to voice our concerns,” Nagel said. “We wouldn’t have BLM organizations across the world if police brutality and racial injustice weren’t a thing.”