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Black Lives Matter in Syracuse protests police misconduct incident

Tom Magnarelli
Black Lives Matter protesters in downtown Syracuse Tuesday.

A Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Syracuse on Tuesday focused on the issue of violence against black women. Protesters highlighted one incident in particular as part of the group’s continuing effort to push for police accountability.

Maleatra Montanez is suing the city of Syracuse for an incident involving former Syracuse Police Officer Chester Thompson in 2015. Thompson admitted to having sexual encounters with Montanez and another woman in separate incidents while on the job. Thompson said it was consensual, but Montanez said she was forced. Thompson, who is no longer with the Syracuse Police Department, was sentenced by a judge to three years probation. At the time, the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office said the most they could charge Thompson with was official misconduct.

Herve Comeau, who helped organize Tuesday’s protest, said when police commit crimes, they are held to a lower standard.

“His victims are not doing well, his victims are suffering, his victims are scared.” Comeau said. “They’re scared about calling the police in general and they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in fear.”

Comeau said the reason the group talks about specific victims is it allows people to connect emotionally with issues of police accountability. 

"We're here to support Maleatra in her ongoing struggle, her ongoing pursuit of justice," Comeau said. "But she is one named victim out of hundreds, out of thousands, and we want to show support for all of them."

And Montinique MacEachern, another protest organizer, said there was a lack of transparency from police and a lack of news coverage about the incident when it first took place.

“That’s scary to me," MacEachern said. "Among all the other reasons I have to be afraid of police, I have to worry about being raped by them in my own home.”

The protest was meant to stand in solidarity with Montanez as she continues an ongoing legal struggle.

The Syracuse Police Department declined to comment on the topic.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.