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After city warns of potential COVID-19 exposure at protest, activists say cops didn't wear masks

Screenshot from video posted by Assembly member Demond Meeks
Screenshot from video posted by Assembly member Demond Meeks

After the city of Rochester released an advisory over the weekend about possible coronavirus exposure at a recent protest, activists said that some Rochester police officers who responded were not wearing masks.

On Sunday, the City of Rochester reported that there may have been an exposure risk at a protest outside of 57 Glasgow St., where a court-ordered eviction was taking place. 

Protesters at the Dec. 18 eviction blockade said Rochester police officers who were not wearing face masks posed the greater risk of coronavirus spread.

Allie Dentinger with the City-wide Tenant Union of Rochester was one of the protesters. She doesn’t dispute that people were potentially exposed to COVID-19.

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“We just think it’s disingenuous to not point out that RPD is also a huge piece of that,” said Dentinger. “They have consistently been observed throughout protests all summer, throughout community interactions, and at the Glasgow blockade not wearing masks.”

The department's policy mandates that all employees wear face coverings while in direct contact with members of the public.

Capt. Mark Mura said that wasn’t the case with some officers who responded to the protest.

“Some of the video I saw showed officers without masks on, and those officers are in the process of being re-trained with usage of their mask,” said Mura. 

Justin Roj, the city's communications director, said the exposureat report initially came from a protester's relative.

“Who said, ‘Hey, the family member of mine who was at that protest was ill and had tested positive for COVID-19’ and wanted to share that and was also aware of potentially that a second protester that was with that individual was also positive for COVID-19,” Roj said.

Roj said there was no evidence given of the test result, but the mayor’s office took the person at their word.

Public reports of potential coronavirus exposure generally come from the Monroe County Public Health Department, which Roj said has been notified. 

Investigator Jackie Shuman, a spokesperson with the Rochester Police Department, said none of the officers at the demonstration have reported contracting the virus.

Dentinger said that by not following public health guidance on coronavirus precautions, RPD officers are endangering themselves and others.

“It’s really unacceptable for them to not be masking if it’s a state mandate that we’re doing so,” she said. “They put not only the community members at risk but themselves at risk.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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