Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photo Editor

The statement comes in anticipation of a Back the Blue rally and counter-protest, and after weeks of increasing tension between city police and protesters.

October 23, 2020

City and County Officials Release Statement Ahead of Back the Blue Rally and Counterprotest

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In a strongly worded statement, city and county officials warned against violence at the Oct. 24 Back the Blue rally and counterprotest on the Commons.

“As the leaders of local government and law enforcement, we all feel that tempers are quickly spiraling out of control,” officials wrote. “We implore our community to please work to find other outlets for political expression and help us avoid a potentially tragic clash in the heart of our City.”

Organizers on both sides failed to apply for permits, according to the statement, which was signed by Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, chairwoman of the county legislature, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, Sheriff Derek Osbourne, Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor and county administrator Jason Molino.

Nayor released a statement on behalf of the IPD Oct. 20, denouncing the violence at the Oct. 16 demonstrations and warning against a recurrence on Saturday.

“Support for any position must occur peacefully and if any participant from either side has any intent other than peacefully demonstrating, then I implore you to stay home,” Nayor wrote in a media release, calling the violence at last week’s rally and counterprotest “unacceptable.”

The statement comes less than 24 hours after IPD made 9 arrests of protesters following a Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) event to clean up graffiti from the Oct. 16 demonstrations outside the Tompkins County Republican Party storefront.

Officers arrested Massia Malki White-Saunders at around 4:15 p.m. toward the end of the event on Meadow Street, which was attended by several politicians, including Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-N.Y.) and around a dozen counterprotesters. Ithaca police charged White-Saunders with harassment, though he denied the allegation, claiming that he was threatened by a Trump supporter wielding a knife.

After White-Saunders’s arrest, counterprotesters marched to IPD headquarters, where officers arrested Genevieve Rand for obstructing governmental administration and Dakota Ingraham for resisting arrest. Ingraham said that officers failed to read him his Miranda rights, nor told what he was being arrested for. He also said four officers aggressively threw him onto his stomach.

White-Saunders and Ingraham were held in police custody for 20 and 40 minutes, respectively.

At 7:10 p.m., IPD declared the assembly “unlawful,” and proceeded to pepper spray protesters and madee six arrests, arresting White-Saunders and Ingraham for the second time. Officers then barricaded the road and pressured protesters away from the headquarters. After 20 minutes, protesters returned to demand the release of those arrested.

By 9:10 p.m., all protesters placed in custody were released.

Shortly after the protesters dispersed, Myrick commented on Twitter that the confluence of the upcoming election, the pandemic and the recession is “creating immense amounts of pressure,” adding, “Engage in politics. Fight hard. But there is no need to fight in the street.”