In February, Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino submitted a complaint against Black Lives Matter activist Chandler Hickenbottom for disorderly conduct arising out of her actions at the February 7, 2023, City Council meeting.
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct is a “violation.”
According to the website of the law firm Jones, Hacker Murphy:
“In New York State, violations are not considered crimes – so a conviction will not result in a criminal record, unlike misdemeanor or felony convictions, which do establish a criminal record. A conviction could, however, result in a sentence of up to 15 days in jail, fines, and/or community service.”
Here is the behavior that constitutes disorderly conduct in New York:
Excerpt From Video Of Event For Which Hickenbottom Was Charged
This is an excerpt from the February 7, 2023, Council meeting documenting what precipitated the charge of disorderly conduct against Ms. Hickenbottom.
Hickenbottom’s tirade lasted for over twelve minutes, exceeding the established time limit of two minutes. You can pretty much check off the activities that define disorderly conduct by watching the video. In fact, Hickenbottom announces with apparent pleasure that she is “disrupting” the meeting.
What is more disturbing is the verbal abuse directed at other people in the audience. The environment becomes intimidating and toxic. This kind of extreme and belligerent behavior subverts the principle that the public should be welcome to comment without fear before the Council.
BLM’s Special Free Speech Liberties
BLM casts their behavior as a free speech issue. They believe that expressing their righteous anger trumps any limitation. Ignoring time limits for speaking or shouting down any other speakers with whom they disagree is justified.
Hickenbottom’s supporters conveniently ignore or simply aren’t concerned that, as demonstrated in the clip from the February 7 meeting, their enraged verbal attacks on members of the public create an environment that is intimidating and discourages other citizens from participating in the public comment period.
A number of Saratogians have begun to speak out, expressing their reluctance to attend Council meetings given the regular disruptions by BLM activists. Here is a link to a previous post where Mary Beth Delarm raises these concerns with the Council. I would also observe that BLM members’ behavior, which includes the heavy use of epithets, is such that parents would likely be reluctant to bring a child to a Council meeting or even allow a child to watch a video of the meeting.
Ms. Hickenbottom’s Behavior Is Supported By Most Of The Members Of The City Council
Mayor Kim has repeatedly stated to the media that any restrictions on BLM behavior would violate their rights. In fact, he has rearranged the time of Council meetings and the agenda to accommodate ongoing disruptions of city business rather than try to regain control of the meetings. [ see blog post]
He is routinely supported by Commissioners Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub either verbally or by their silence.
As documented in the video, Kim offers only tepid appeals to the BLM activists to desist, knowing they will ignore him and continue to monopolize the public comment period. Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub simply sit back and make no effort to insist on order or to advocate for allowing other members of the public to speak.
Charges Against Hickenbottom Dismissed.
The case of Chandler Hickenbottom’s alleged disruption of the February 7, 2023, City Council meeting was dismissed on June 23, 2023.
Saratoga’s two city judges had recused themselves, as did Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen, so a Mechanicville judge was assigned to hear the case, and an Assistant District Attorney from Warren County was appointed to prosecute.
The assigned District Attorney notified the judge that she would not be prosecuting the case, and the judge, therefore, dismissed the charge.
There is no record as to why the DA chose to withdraw charges.
While BLM asserts it was because Montagnino had violated their free speech rights, we will never actually know why the charges were withdrawn.
Ms. Hickenbottom’s Council Behavior Is Not An Anomaly
The following video was made by Chandler Hickenbottom this past June, and she posted it on the Saratoga BLM website. She is BLM leader Lex Figuereo’s sister. The location of the incident this video depicts is a park in Albany near where she resides, and the police are officers with the Albany Police Department. The incident involves two teenage girls under the care of St. Anne Institute. St. Anne’s has a residential program for troubled youth between 12 and 20.
The video is long. It is sometimes difficult to watch, but I would encourage readers to take the time to watch the entire footage.
According to a story in the Times Union and based on comments in this video, the incident began when one of the girls sat on the wheel of an Albany police officer’s bicycle and refused to get off. The young girl got into some sort of fracas with the officer, but things turned particularly ugly when her friend tried to intercede during the arrest.
A scuffle ensued, during which the police officer sustained injuries trying to subdue the second young woman. The officer was struck in the head when the young woman used his bike helmet to hit him. He was treated for bite wounds, lacerations to his head, elbows, and knees, along with a sprained finger. Judging by the video, the young woman appeared to be uninjured.
As the video documents, Hickenbottom, in a stream of verbal abuse, ranted at the police all during the original fracas and for another thirty minutes after the young women had been placed in police cars. Hickenbottom directed her most ugly remarks at a black police officer, calling him a “coon” and much worse. When a black civilian identifying himself as an activist tried to calm her, she directed her rage at him.
Everyone demonstrates extraordinary patience with her abusive and provocative behavior.
Her rambling, endless, expletive-laden soliloquy pretty much mirrors her remarks and behavior at the Council meeting that led to the complaint against her.
No Saint, No Demon
I am struck by the alternate universe from which I observe all this. For some, among them Mayor Kim, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran, Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi, and Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub, Ms. Hickenbottom is an activist fighting for justice and unfairly persecuted. To others, she is a criminal who needs to do jail time.
To me and some others, though, she is neither a saint nor a demon but a deeply troubled young woman. While racism in this society is very real, Ms. Hickenbottom’s undifferentiated anger at the police is corrosive not only to the police she abuses but to her own mental health. The anger she directs at the good Samaritan black man who tries to calm her reflects the Manichean world in which she lives. If you do not embrace her crusade, she considers you an enabler and an enemy giving her license to abuse you.
In spite of the patience and forbearance of the police in this video, Ms. Hickenbottom cannot distinguish them from the police who, using unnecessary force, have recklessly assaulted and killed Black Americans in other cities.
Regrettably, Hickenbottom and her brother Lex Figuereo are clickbait for the local media which is happy to provide them with uncritical celebrity status encouraging this behavior.
The New Normal
It is clear that Council members Kim, Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub are unwilling to set any reasonable limits on Ms. Hickenbottom and her colleagues. BLM’s disruption of meetings and their intimidating behavior is the new normal here in Saratoga Springs and will be until we elect officials who will reform the process.