Community activist Ken Zeoli pops out of the passenger side of his lawyer’s car, his arm in a sling. “They threw me down the stairs,” he says nodding toward the police precinct behind him. He’s just back from an urgent care on Hoosick street where he was diagnosed with a sprained collarbone and shoulder. He shows off a deep bruise on his shoulder.
Zeoli and other activists spent the morning demanding a complaint form from the same precinct.
Zeoli has been placing chairs in Barker Park since Troy City Hall removed benches and ousted a feeding program earlier this month.
The Department of Public Works has removed Zeoli’s chairs and for the last few days Zeoli has come to the precinct to demand to file a complaint.
Today the officers tell him he’s trespassing. Sgt. Sean Kittle violently pulls him beyond a desk and places him under arrest. He spends 3 hours in an isolation cell where he says he had a seizure and is told, “I hope you die.”
Zeoli says he’s also denied medical care and requests for his attorney to be present and to make a phone call are mocked and ignored.
Over 50 protesters accompanied by legal observers from the National Lawyer’s Guild and the ACLU, and the press gather quickly as video of the arrest spreads.
“Are you so fucking incompetent that you can’t go get a complaint form out a filing cabinet?” shouts a protester on a bullhorn.
Activists from Troy for Black Lives, All of Us and Equality for Troy form lines to knock one at a time on the locked front door of the precinct to demand their own complaint forms.
Heavily armed officers in fatigues come and go from the building.
“We want a complaint form!” the crowd chants.
Officers emerge from a side door where Troy Councilman Anasha Cummings stands. “Where’s the leadership? You gotta get your people under control, now they’re breaking the law!” an officer tells Cummings, who replies “It is what it is.”
The officer scoffs.
I ask the officers about Zeoli’s injuries and his arrest.
“That guy has multiple children by multiple women. I have to go to his house every day. He is not what I call an upstanding citizen. Everything we do in there is videotaped!,” an officer with the name tag D. Fera tells me.
These aren’t the words of an officer concerned with deescalating the situation.
I ask Zeoli about the comments. “Yes I’ve been divorced twice but that has nothing to do with my right to file a complaint which is my right as a citizen.’
Zeoli’s attorney Saeed Ibrahim agrees. “If you have higher interaction with police you are more likely to need to file a complaint form,” he says.
I ask him if he expects to see video of the incident from the Troy PD.
“If the video doesn’t exonerate them, we will never see it.”
Eventually officers give Zeoli a complaint form, and more are handed out to the crowd.
“We aren’t going to be placated!” protesters shout.
Some organizers are getting nervous as state police start to block off the street. A middle-aged white man driving a black SUV refuses to back up as protesters hold the intersection of State and 6th Ave.
Officers try to push the protesters back. “You are going to allow this in our city?” the man in the car snarls at the officer backing away only to stop and again taunt the protesters. Eventually he backs away and turns around.
Local Defense Attorney Matt Toporowski says he will be representing Zeoli in the upcoming proceedings. Zeoli was charged with trespassing and possession of marijuana. Toporowski says Zeoli has a medical marijuana card.
“This whole thing could have been prevented if they simply gave him a complaint form,” Toporowski told me.
Protesters eventually disperse to Barker Park where they fill out complaint forms.
We’ll update this story throughout the day.