DELMAR — At least three incident reports have been filed with Bethlehem police related to the dueling demonstrations on Saturday, July 4 — two of which were filed by and against former Bethlehem Republican Committee Chairman Keith Wiggand.
Bethlehem police confirmed three incident reports were filed since the July 4 demonstrations at Delmar’s Four Corners.
“As all of these cases are under investigation we cannot release names on anyone involved at this time,” said Bethlehem Police Commander Adam Hornick. “As of this time there have been no arrests made as a result of the July 4th events.”
Bethlehem police were supported by Albany County Sheriffs and New York State Police to keep order among the more than 600 people who attended. Wiggand had organized the Back the Blue rally to form at the Four Corners while a Black Lives Matter demonstration was planned at town hall less than a quarter mile down the street. Individual conflicts emerged after some demonstrators crossed the street to posture signs in front opposing views.
One incident report filed by resident Matthew Lauricella claims Wiggand was “hitting me in the face with his sign, verbally harassing me, and also shoving his sign in my face.”
Lauricella was observed throughout the day holding various signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. He stood at the corner held predominantly by Wiggand’s Back the Blue rally. Lauricella’s first sign appeared to protest the Bethlehem Resident News Facebook page Wiggand maintains. The page, often written from a first-person perspective, reflects support for conservative and Repubican initiatives, including Back the Blue. Comments voicing contrasting views are often responded to in kind, leading Wiggand’s opponents to accuse him of bullying.
Lauricella emailed several videos to The Spotlight showing what appears to be confrontations with Wiggand. In one video, Wiggand stands beside Lauricella, appearing to hold his sign in front of Lauricella’s. At one point, Wiggand’s sign slaps and rests upon Lauricella’s face for several seconds. Another video features a voice of someone calling Wiggand by name just before he appears to jab his sign towards the camera phone, knocking it to the ground.
The following day, a statement was published on Bethlehem Resident News.
“So, now that I organized a successful rally supporting our police, I have been labeled ‘the most racist person in Bethlehem,’” states the unsigned statement. “Shows how viscious [sic] these people are – but I refuse to back down.
“Don’t worry folks, I ain’t going anywhere. They have just made my flame burn a little brighter.”
Wiggand declined to comment on the complaint filed against him, but confirmed he knew about it. He also shared that he had filed a counter-complaint against Lauricella.
Wiggand had previously said his rally was not politically motivated, and that he wanted to show support to local law enforcement. Stephanie Dwyer, the town current Republican Party chairperson, did not show support for the rally.
In a comment highlighted by Bethlehem Resident News, Dwyer pledged full support for local police, but that she refused “to be a part of something that is based on hate, negativity and threats of violence.”
Despite the occasional conflict, police were present to quickly quell the tension surrounding the rallies. No arrests were made that day.
“First and foremost, everyone there was treated equally as to ensure their legal and fundamental rights,” said Hornick.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.