Pathways to Peace disrupts violence amid pandemic
An alternatives to violence program with the city of Rochester is working through the pandemic to reach at-risk youths and communities affected by cycles of violence.
After fights broke out around Rochester on Memorial Day, Raymond Mayoliz with Pathways to Peace said their program workers were on the ground the next day where one such fight took place between two girls.
Mayoliz said he had seen a striking detail in a video shared on social media of that incident.
“The boys were trying to stop the girls from fighting,” Mayoliz said. “So the following day outreach happened and we ended up going to Hudson and Ernst and we went and congratulated the boys for trying to stop the fight.”
That outreach and positive reinforcement is protocol, he says.
Pathways to Peace has worked for 22 years to disrupt violence.
“We see emotions, we see the body mechanics, we see the movements, we kind of get an understanding of what is about to happen, and we try to de-escalate it before it hits," said Mayoliz.
Over the weekend, program workers were on duty at another part of town, Ontario Beach Park in Charlotte, where they’ve monitored holiday weekend activities for years. This time, though, they were in personal protective equipment and offering masks to visitors, which were often declined.
But their shifts ended about an hour or so before multiple fights erupted. Mayoliz said they are re-evaluating their shifts to better address and diffuse potentially volatile situations.
He said that overall, while executive orders have been to stay home, stay safe, and protect your circle, he still sees some young people gathering on street corners and seeking what he calls “the love on the streets.”
“The attention, the feeling of belonging from the streets,” he described. “So it’d be the people on the streets who'd show you more love and affection than what you’d get at home.”
He said that could include attention from gang members, drug dealers, and neighbors.
Mayoliz said interrupting violence takes a multifaceted, grassroots strategy. He advises anyone who sees disputes brewing to call the Pathways to Peace hotline: 585-428-6339.