Arrested during counterprotest, activist warns of white supremacist violence and police bias

His face pushed into the cold ground, two knees braced against his neck and seven state troopers piled on top of him, Lexis Figuereo, organizer for All of Us, realized he was in the situation he’s been fighting to stop others from facing for the last six months.  

In Washington, DC, police were slowly clearing mobs of militia members MAGA supporters, QAnon faithful and Proud Boys out of the Capitol.  They were clearing away the explosive devices, broken glass, feces and gallows they’d erected. Tending to the wounded, and the dead. 

In Albany, Figuereo was figuring out how to avoid a much smaller but similar mob preventing him from getting to his running car.

He’d shown up at the NY State Capitol to check on his friends who were counter protesting local “Stop the Steal” protesters.

One of his friends, Alex Contompasis was arrested after a fight with Proud Boys and Trump supporters. Contompasis faces felony charges for stabbing two right-wing protesters during a melee. Colin Dermody, a MAGA supporter, was charged with second-degree harassment for striking a counter-protester. He was the only MAGA supporter to face charges for involvement in the melee. 

Figuereo arrived at the Capitol in the aftermath of arrests.

Worried that his car might be stolen or vandalized, Figuereo took a shortcut and stepped over a police line that had been set up after the earlier fracas. 

Short Cut

That shortcut across the tape led to charges of resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal trespass, third-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He suffered scrapes and cuts across his neck from having his face pressed into the frozen ground, a sprained wrist and damage to a his previously-broken jaw. 

Brandon Boyd, a fellow activist who came to Figuereo’s defense, was shoved by a police officer and pushed him back. He was then taken down, arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and harassment

“I’ve been fighting for months to stop knees on necks and I wind up with a knee on my neck,” Figuereo says. 

Figuereo notes that while Albany and Schenectady have banned police from using the kind of knee restraints used by a police officer to kill George Floyd, New York State troopers still employ the technique. They continue using the hold despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for police departments across the state to reevaluate their tactics in the wake of Floyd’s murder. 

Two Standards

It wasn’t exactly a wake-up call for Figuereo, who has personally dealt with members of conservative hate groups, their threats and their violence at rallies for months now. But it is illustrative of how Black Lives Matter protesters have been treated harshly across the country while members of hate groups like the Proud Boys are treated with kid gloves by police. 

BLM protesters across the region have been tear gassed, pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, threatened with firearms and nearly run over by drivers who faced no legal repercussions for their actions.

Figuereo says watching the scene in DC play out was a reminder that a number of police officers are aligned with MAGA and Proud Boys. And it raised his concerns that planned “demonstrations” around state capitals in the coming days by MAGA supporters could be allowed to escalate. 

The Violence to Come

Despite having interacted with a number of established right-wing protesters this year Figuereo says he saw a slew of new faces on January 6. “There were lots of new faces and they are being drawn in from across the state.” 

Figuereo identifies as ANTIFA, a designation that means he is antifacist, a term has become the boogie man for conservative news outlets across the country. He says he and his friends have gotten up close and personal with members of local hate groups and believes local authorities are underestimating them. 

Figuereo expects to see a surge of hate groups in Albany in the next few weeks as  the end of Trumps’ term draws closer. The FBI warns that state houses could be the target of militia violence and the NY State Capitol had hardened its defenses over the last few days. 

“I don’t know if the police are going to keep us safe. These fascists think they can do whatever they want to do now that they know the cops are giving them the green light. There are plenty of Proud Boys that live all over here, same with Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, plenty of white hate groups, and all of them are a disgrace to America.” 

****Update: This event has been changed to a press conference on the sidewalk near East Capitol Park.****

All of Us will gather at East Capitol Park in Albany at 12 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, January 13), to protest “police brutality” and “the support of white supremacy” by law enforcement.

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