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Rochester Assembly member arrested during eviction protest

Dec 19, 2020

Screenshot from video posted by Assembly member Demond Meeks
Credit Assembly member Demond Meeks/Facebook

A New York State Assembly member from Rochester was arrested Friday night during a protest held trying to stop the eviction of a woman who lives in an apartment on Glasgow Street in Corn Hill.  A  statement by activists was released about the arrest of Demond Meeks, who was just sworn into office last month. He posted video on Facebook of his arrest.

RPD says it arrested a total of around 15 individuals who tried to stop police from what they say was the lawful execution of a warrant of eviction.  That eviction followed what police say was an order of contempt and arrest as part of the eviction process issued by City Court Judge Michael Lopez. 

According to a statement released by housing activists, the tenant who was evicted, Clianda Florence-Yarde is a single mother of three children who is not protected from eviction under the limited protections that currently exist in New York state. Housing activists said earlier that Florence-Yarde had previously started to withhold rent due to poor living conditions in the building. They say that Florence-Yarde works remotely as a public school teacher.

A statement from housing activist Ryan Acuff says that Florence-Yarde is not protected under the New York State Tenant Safe Harbor act because this is a holdover eviction, not a non-payment issue, and he says without protections from a universal moratorium, there have been dozens of evictions which are “holdovers” and therefore ineligible  for eviction prevention programs and protections.

A statement from the Rochester Citywide Tenant Union called for a "true and full ban on evictions for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis."

Here is the full statement from RPD released Friday night:

"Today, City Court Judge Michael Lopez issued an Order of Contempt and Arrest as part of an eviction process.  This order directed Rochester Police Officers to address the respondent and all others preventing a lawful execution of a Warrant of Eviction being carried out in accordance with the court’s order dated October 28, 2020.    When officers arrived, approximately 15 individuals made an effort to stop the police from the eviction and were subsequently arrested for Obstructing Governmental Administrations 2nd Degree.  

The Rochester Police Department has no discretion in this matter or similar cases. The department must enforce any valid court order. In this particular case, RPD was originally ordered by the court to arrest and bring the tenant before the presiding judge. RPD simply fulfilled the ruling and direction of the court.

Additionally, Rochester Police Officers at the scene offered Emergency Housing options and food and shelter to help those that were evicted."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released this statement:

“It’s the holidays. People are suffering from under the dark shadow of the pandemic and economic crisis. The last thing the courts should be doing is putting people out in the cold. I urge the federal and state governments to provide rent relief and mortgage assistance for responsible landlords. This is an issue that I raised when I met with the State Delegation last week.

The City has done our part by allocating millions of dollars for emergency rent assistance and legal aid. Now, city governments are being ordered to take terrible actions in the face of the lack of political will in Washington and Albany. I urge the court to drop all charges in this case against the tenant and those demonstrating for justice.”