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Protests Shut Down East & Alexander

Randy Gorbman

A number of  protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations gathered at the East Ave. and Alexander St. intersection on Friday night.

That is normally a crowded scene anyway on a weekend night, but the protests, police in riot gear and some arrests made for a scene a little more chaotic than usual.

Rochester Police officials in an early Saturday morning news conference said that 73 people were arrested,  on disorderly conduct charges, three  others on charges of resisting arrest. There were actually 74 disorderly conduct arrests, because police say one of the people arrested returned to the scene after being released and was arrested a second time.

And most of those arrests happened at night, near East and Alexander. There was only one arrest earlier in the day during the demonstration that wound its way through downtown.

The daytime protests occasionally blocked traffic at some of the city’s busiest downtown intersections.

At East and Alexander, police moved protesters away from the East and Alexander intersection, while the demonstrators chanted slogans like, “ No justice, no peace.”

One of the protesters, Ann Sesta, told WXXI News they picked that spot for a very specific reason.

“We came to shut down business as usual, we came to stop the money flowing on East Ave and Alexander on  a Friday night, we came to just stop business as usual; black bodies in the street by public servants is unacceptable and we’re not going to just continue as if it’s just another day."

Police blocked traffic in an area between Alexander and Union St. on East Avenue while the protests went on.

Credit Randy Gorbman / WXXI News

There was no word of any injuries. 13WHAM TV says two of its reporters, including former WXXI reporter Carlet Cleare,  and Justin Carter were briefly detained while they were covering the protest. Both RPD Chief Michael Ciminelli and Mayor Lovely Warren apologized for that incident, and police officials are looking into it.

Ciminelli and Warren say there were no injuries and no property damage during the various demonstrations and they also gave credit to RPD officers for using restraint; Warren says there was no use of things like pepper spray to try and control the crowd.

Ciminelli says the decision was made to start arresting people at the East & Alexander location for a couple of reasons; not only because traffic was being blocked in that area for a long period of time, but the chief says it also put a serious strain on RPD resources to be able to handle other calls. He says having all of the officers tied up at the scene meant that non-emergency calls weren't getting answered, and nearby police departments had to be called in to help with emergency calls.

Ciminelli says police donned riot gear at the evening protest for safety reasons; he says some rocks were thrown at officers, but there were no injuries.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.