Rent activists flood courtroom with cockroaches

Good cause eviction protester releases hundreds of insects, triggering chaos at Albany arraignment

Tri-State /
Jun.June 08, 2022 05:12 PM
1 Morton Avenue in Albany (NY Courts, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

1 Morton Avenue in Albany (NY Courts, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

Cockroaches may be the sworn enemy of many an apartment renter, but insects and tenants made a rare show of solidarity in an Albany courtroom this week.

Albany City Court was forced to close for an extermination on Tuesday after a protester released hundreds of cockroaches while tenant advocates, arrested at a good cause eviction rally in the state capital last month, were being arraigned, the Times Union reported.

One of several activists on hand to support the defendants was placed in handcuffs after allegedly trying to recover her phone, which court personnel had confiscated when she began filming the proceeding.

The videographer, tenant advocate Clyanna Lightbourn, was fired from her job at the state Senate Democratic Conference Services Office after the arrest, but was not identified as the one who released the insects, according to the publication. A later Times Union report indicated she intentionally created a distraction to give the insect-spreader an opportunity.

As that dispute played out, the other person reportedly dropped cockroach-infested leaves of lettuce, which had apparently been sneaked into the courtroom, onto the floor.

“What transpired is not advocacy or activism, it is criminal behavior with the intent to disrupt a proceeding and cause damage,” said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the state Office of Court Administration.

Others could be charged as an investigation continues, Chalfen told the Times Union.

A statement from the Albany County district attorney’s office also decried the courtroom cockroach carnival.

“While the incident remains under investigation, the office of the district attorney would like to emphasize that while the right to protest is protected, we oppose the disruption of court proceedings, and the apparent display of disrespect shown to the court,” the statement said.

The bugs were reportedly Madagascar hissing roaches, not the kind that typically infest dwellings. But the slow-moving, fruit-loving creatures do produce a startlingly loud hiss when bothered.

[Times Union] — Holden Walter-Warner





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