A sea of police uniforms covered the bottom portion of the grand staircase commonly referred at the Capitol as the Million Dollar Staircase.
The event, a press conference featuring Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly -- drew law enforcement leaders from around the state on Tuesday as opponents continued to press the issue of repealing the law that ends cash bail requirements for misdemeanors and non-violent felony offenses.
"You are less safe today than you were six months ago," said Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan at the standing-room-only rally. "You are less safe than you are a year ago."
Democratic supporters of the law, along with criminal justice advocates, have called this fear mongering and sensationalism. Some of the cases of people accused of crimes that have been highlighted by the law's critics have also been misconstrued as being due to the measure.
"While youth activists from across the state have mobilized to demand fully funded public schools and racial justice, the anti-bail reform coalition has continued to desperately seek media coverage and draw attention away from real issues impacting New Yorkers," said Jasmine Gripper, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, and Stanley Fritz, the political director of an allied organization, Citizen Action.
The heart of the impasse has been this: Supporters contend the law will prevent poor people from waiting for months on end in prison, opponents say the law took an ax to a problem that needs a scalpel and has led to the release of dangerous people.
It was yet another sign the bail law debate was entering a fraught period at the Capitol that has drawn scrutiny to extremists comments made on a Facebook group used by Republican officials, the law's unpopularity with voters and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's staunch support for the measure.
"Clearly it shows the public outcry about this, we're going to get our message out there anyway we can," Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said. "This is a public safety crisis."
Democratic lawmakers, especially those who represent suburban and upstate legislative directors, have announced support for changes to the law, which took effect last month. They want to enable judges to determine if a person is too dangerous to be released.
Heastie has responded with some of the disquiet within his conference, holding informational sessions on the specifics of the law.
"Doesn't it seem strange that the Assembly majority has to go behind doors and re-brief their lawmakers on exactly what this law does?" Barclay said
But advocates have pointed to a Facebook group, which has included incendiary rhetoric in comments and a photo of activists opposed to the law who posed with what is now considered a white power gesture.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said "legitimate policy disputes" were understandable, but said Republicans should have denounced the comments on the site.
"We've all been around here long enough to know there's differences in policies, differences in how we approach things," she said. "Hate, platforms of hate that each every one of us should denounce that."
Democrats in the state Senate are not ruling out changes, however, to the law. Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday there is a group of lawmakers within the Democratic conference discussing the issue.
"We are facilitating information, gathering information and that's the only way we address any issue," she said, adding, "We've always been open to tweak. We will not be repealing the bail law, but we want to make sure what we've set out to do is stop the criminalization of poor people."