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Open forum tonight on vandalism of Douglass statue

Ryan Williamson
Statue of Frederick Douglass at Alexander and Tracy Streets before it was damaged on Sunday.

The head of a Rochester nonprofit says the community is saddened and angry and needs a chance to have its voice heard following the vandalism of a Frederick Douglass statue.

Calvin Eaton, founder and director of 540wMain Communiversity, is hosting an open forum tonight. 

Eaton says he has trouble believing John Boedicker's claim that he Charles Milks had no racial motives when they allegedly tried to topple the statue of the civil rights icon early Sunday morning near the corner of Tracy and Alexander Streets.

"If your defense is that you were so drunk and intoxicated that you would destroy a statue - a public statue - then how can you remember what you might have said during that drunken...I don't even know what you would call it....incident?"

Boedicker and Milks were suspended from St. John Fisher College pending a student conduct hearing. Eaton says he hopes that was not simply a reactive move on the part of the college and that it will enact systemic and policy changes, including implicit bias training for students and staff.

Some social media posts have asked whether the Boedicker and Milk's lives should be ruined because of a stupid mistake.   Eaton said much of the community’s outrage and hurt comes from the fact that the same consideration is not often given to people of color.

"There does not seem to be the same sort of will to provide excuses ( for ) or rehabilitate young black men who make a stupid mistake the same way it happens when the perpetrators are young white men, especially college educated young white men."

Tonight's forum starts at 7 p.m. at 540 West Main St. in Rochester. Eaton said he plans to record it on Facebook live and send the recording to administrators at St. John Fisher. 

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.