DELMAR — A large pick-up truck with American flags and a Trump 2020 banner flapping in the breeze halted rush hour traffic, stopping within feet of a small group of demonstrators, in an apparent act of Election Day intimidation.
Members of an online group Bethlehem Indivisible were holding a “Black Lives Matter” banner along the corner of Delaware and Elsmere avenues when a pick-up truck stopped perpendicular to the flow of Delaware Avenue traffic. The brief faceoff was captured on video by one of its members.
The video starts with a dark-colored Dodge pick-up truck stopped in the middle of the intersection. The sight is accompanied by the blasts of horns from oncoming motorists unable to pass through. Two American flags flank the bank end of the truck. A Trump 2020 flaps in the wind above the front cab, including the phrase “F*ck Your Feelings.”
“We were shaken but not deterred by this bully,” said one witness who was with the group Tuesday night. “In the moment, I worried about our safety. What if he chose to accelerate?”
The silhouettes of two individuals appear on both the driver and passenger sides of the truck. A metal cross reflects light as it dangles from the rearview mirror.
“Defund the police. Don’t call the police,” the driver yelled as he leaned out his window. “Stand up for yourselves.”
“We are, and others,” responded another voice off-camera.
The video captures approximately one minute of the standoff before it shows the pick-up proceeding to complete a near 360-degree turn, cutting the path of at least two motorists as it continued west down Delaware Avenue. Before the stream cuts off, a voice off-camera can be heard in an assumed phone call to police.
Bethlehem Indivisible members have often stood at the busy intersection since September to show off its banner in front of rush hour traffic returning home from Albany. It was originally intended to hang above Elsmere Avenue, similar to the purple “Together, we are one Bethlehem.” sign that hangs off the bridge now.
The group said it had initially received permission from the county to hang their sign off the bridge, but that was soon rescinded when similar messages on the Rail Trail were met with vandalism earlier this year. Since standing at the corner, members said it’s common for motorists to stop and share opposing views, but Tuesday evening was different.
The incident follows just hours after Town Supervisor David VanLuven declared local residents went unscathed by political harassment reported elsewhere across the country. On Monday, a caravan of Trump supporters stopped traffic along the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge and New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway.
Bethlehem was once a red pocket in a predominantly Democrat county. Republicans had run the Albany suburb for more than a century, but residents have shown the proclivity for voting Democrat over the past 20 years, especially in Delmar.
“I hope the police issued multiple tickets because what this man chose to do and his traffic violations were not OK,” said the witness.
Cmdr. Jim Rexford confirmed Bethlehem police received a phone call shortly after 5 p.m.
“Upon our officers arriving one party had left the area in a vehicle that had numerous flags in the back,” Rexford said in a statement. “The incident didn’t escalate into anything criminal and our officers cleared the call.”