VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – Across the Southern Tier, a new coalition of community activists, known as the People’s Protection Coalition, is conducting protests this week that demand police accountability. In Delhi, protesters marched Thursday from Courthouse Square to the Delaware County jail.
According to protest organizer Paul Fontana, people in the jail are treated inhumanely. He said inmates suffering from substance use disorders are treated with little compassion, and the jail’s medical system hurts instead of helps them.
“This is a medical problem that we are handling with a criminal system,” said Fontana, who works with the Catskills Addiction Coalition and has dealt with substance use disorder. “It’s wrong. It’s slavery.”
The regional movement was set into motion after Southern Tier sheriffs earlier this month announced a set of 10 legislative proposals said to protect law enforcement personnel.
Fontana said the legislative proposals make it nearly impossible for residents to hold police accountable.
A counter-protest in support of the sheriffs faced protesters as they marched. Organized by DelCo Red, which supports Republican candidates in Delaware County, around 20 counter-protesters chanted “back the blue” and carried signs praising Delaware County Sheriff Craig Dumond. Dumond is one of the Southern Tier sheriffs vocal in supporting the proposals.
“We all have friends and family that are actively in the police departments and law enforcement and we feel that we should support them,” said Delaware County resident Paula Brown, who attended the “Back the Blue” rally.
Counter-protesters were also present at the speak out portion of the march, held outside the jail.
Members of the People’s Protection Coalition said they are drafting a plan to increase protections for citizens and redirect direct funding from police departments and jails to social services, like education and public health.
Similar protests will be held this weekend in Tioga and Cortland counties.