Hundreds of people turned out again in downtown Rochester on Saturday as part of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have been going on since last month after the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators in Rochester heard speeches memorializing those who were killed by police, and also a call to defund the police department. Previously, Mayor Lovely Warren said that not everyone in the city favors defunding the department, and she maintains that Rochester is already ahead of other communities on issues like banning chokeholds, and programs like clergy on patrol. She has said that the relationship between the police is not perfect but said it can improve through partnerships with the community.
Organizers of Saturday’s protest feel that money spent on policing could better be spent on other community programs.
Also on Saturday, the Black Physicians Network held a “Black Doctors for Black Lives Rally at Washington Square Park in Rochester, to spread awareness of the intersection between racism and health disparities while protesting systemic racism which the organizatons says shortens the lives of black people and worsens their health.
Protesters from the rally at MLK Park marched through parts of downtown and some of them joined the demonstration at Washington Square Park.
Dr. Linda Clark, President Black Physicians Network in Rochester, said that there are multiple systems that negatively affect the health of the black community.
“It’s not just police brutality, it’s not just poor educational outcomes, it’s not just crowded housing. It’s all of these things combined that is impacting black and brown lives in our community." Clark said that members of the Black Physicians Network will meet with University of Rochester Medical Center CEO, Dr. Mark Taubman later in the week. Taubman made a commitment to take action against racism at URMC.
He said that URMC will improve its work and learning environment for black and brown people, and he said the medical center has a responsibility to help drive the community’s transformation.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello was also at the rally at Washington Square Park, and demonstrators pressed him on what he would do in terms of racial justice issues.
There were marches and protests in other local communities on Saturday including Pittsford and Hilton.