December 6, 2021

BLM coordinator says her family was harassed

Melissa Kiser was out running errands Saturday when her phone blew up with calls from concerned neighbors, she said Wednesday.

The neighbors told her people in three trucks sporting Back the Blue and Trump flags had stopped in front of her house, honked and yelled obscenities.

Kiser, the lead coordinator of Cortland’s Black Lives Matter group, said she is used to criticism and people yelling at her, but this drew the line.

“It was just very scary because my child was home,” she said, speaking of her 5-year-old son, who has autism.

The timing of the event coincided with a motorcade at noon Saturday sponsored by Cortland’s Back the Blue group, where members and guests drove through the city and county, sporting Back the Blue, American and other flags on their vehicles in support of first responders and veterans.

William Diescher, the president of Cortland’s Back the Blue, said in a statement this morning that the motorcade went down multiple streets, but no stops were made by participants in the event and no one shouted or swore out of their vehicles. If Kiser felt threatened, that was never the intention of the event, he continued.

Kiser filed a complaint with the Cortland Police Department and sent emails to Deputy Chief Paul Sandy and Chief F. Michael Catalano, demanding they denounce the actions of the group, which says it supports the police.

Catalano said in a statement the department “is not a political body and therefore will not take a stance, either condemning or supporting any political party, group or entity as an organization.”

“To do so, would be a clear demonstration of bias against a segment of our community and a violation of our values, and the rights of members of our community,” he said.

“I feel that my neighborhood is less safe as a result of their actions,” Kris Behnke, Kiser’s neighbor, said at a common council meeting Tuesday. “I ask you, do you want this in Cortland?”

She too asked the police department to condemn the behavior of the individuals.