74 Arrested during Peaceful Black Lives Matter Rally in Rochester, NY
Rochester, NY: In light of further disturbing news of black men being killed by police officers without cause, people took their space in the streets to exercise their right to peacefully assemble.
At four o'clock on Friday, a Black Lives Matter rally, organized by local grassroots organization B.L.A.C.K. (Building Leadership and Community Knowledge), took place at Liberty Pole Way and Main St. The demonstration continued into the early morning hours of Saturday, when seventy-three people were arrested for disorderly conduct while occupying the intersection of East Ave. and Alexander St.
In the afternoon sun, protestors across many ethnicities, some deaf or hard of hearing, some children and families, one man in a wheelchair, gathered together. Speakers garnered morale and conveyed messages of unifying and non-violence. One female speaker stated, "I dare you to retaliate with love.... Love is the highest form of understanding, love is understanding even when it's not understood.... We cannot go forward if we can't admit they were wrong." Participants were encouraged to introduce themselves to each other. At approximately five o'clock, the eclectic crowd took to the street and began to march. Police cars blocked off traffic from streets; and maintained a presence; however, that did not prevent activists from marching through three lanes of traffic up Clinton Ave. and to Washington Square Park, where Occupy Rochester had been stationed for approximately five months in 2011 and 2012. People on the sidewalks and in their cars took video with their phones, shouted support and raised fists in the air in solidarity.
It was at Martin Luther King Jr. Park that police officers in riot gear carrying tear gas guns, batons, and the usual weaponry, blocked off Manhattan Sq. Dr. which leads to The National Museum of Play and a subsidized housing complex. The protest at large maintained peaceful. People raised up their arms in surrender and fists with chants, "Hands up, don't shoot," "Black lives matter," "Who do you serve, who do you protect." One man was arrested during the non-violent confrontation.
Seventy-five people were put into custody during a sit-in on the intersection of East Ave. and Alexander St. in Rochester, NY's East End: a block of bars, restaurants and night clubs. At aproximately nine o'clock that night a large number of police in riot gear, [edit: badges banded in black in mourning for the fallen officers in Dallas on Thursday], and boasting a near 1:1 ratio to those actively participating in civil disobedience, assembled and in formation pushed protesters back, arresting those who refused to move. Some in the crowds of patrons called out, "Go home!" and "All lives matter!" in an effort to co-opt the "Black lives matter" chant. One man, a protestor, was arrested by being body slammed to the pavement. When he was placed in the back of the cop car, a patron at the restaurant across the street threw a heavy plastic cup at the cop car, which drove off; police did not take action against the patron.
During a press conference at 2:45am that morning, Police Chief Ciminelli stated, "We couldn't keep up with the emergency calls because of the necessity of trying to protect that scene at East and Alexander.... Not only did it endanger the city of Rochester that we didn't have police officers to respond to emergencies... but it also endangered the people [in nearby towns and villages]." Community members and participants in the rally have argued that there was no need for as many police officers as were dispatched to East and Alexander, especially in riot gear.
Earlier in the day, at Liberty Pole Plaza, a protester and dancer, Elyssia Primus remarked, "At this point I'm a little bit traumatized hearing things over and over again... but I don't like the idea of others fighting my battles for me... the worst thing we can be is apathetic," she said. "I think this is a great start, just action and being in people's faces. You can't just ignore it -- because it's hard for us to ignore it; we're angry about it but there are people who aren't that angry about it and they're going to ignore it easy and if we ignore it because we can't deal with it then who's going to be paying attention?" She says her next plan of action is to call local and federal representatives to push for change.
Around 12:40am, during the time when it appears most arrests were taking place, two of those detained were WHAM reporters Carlet Cleare and Justin Carter; both of whom are black. The two were released with public apologies from Mayor Lovely Warren, and police chief Michael Ciminelli.
Seventy-four people were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct; two were additionally charged with resisting arrest.
This is one of many protests occurring across USA. According to Occupy Wall Street's social media, Times Square in NYC, NY was effectively occupied by hundreds to thousands of protesters that same night.
Photos and video by Noelle Evans.