Stanley Martin, a lead organizer with Free the People Roc, an activist group that’s recently been at the center of Rochester’s Black Lives Matter movement, is suing Mayor Lovely Warren and the city of Rochester over the curfew enacted by the mayor on July 15. She’s joined in the suit by the Rochester chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Friday, Martin and the Lawyers Guild ask the court to strike down the curfew, arguing that it violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that because Warren implemented the order “for the purpose of targeting people in Black and brown neighborhoods, it also violates the Equal Protection clause,” reads the filing.
Warren ordered the curfew after a spate of violent incidents in the city. As they announced the curfew, city officials said that 20 people had been shot or stabbed over a two-week period. Warren noted that large parties preceded many of the incidents.
The mayor renewed the curfew Tuesday and has said she’ll continue to renew it every five days until the violence ceases.
The curfew prohibits gatherings of five or more people in public places -- including sidewalks and parks -- and 10 or more people gathered in private between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Anyone accused of violating the curfew can be charged with a misdemeanor.
“We remain confident that the mayor’s order regarding public gatherings after 11 p.m. will withstand legal scrutiny,” city spokesperson Justin Roj said Friday.
Free the People Roc, which has held weekly Black Lives Matter rallies in Rochester since May 30, held a protest against the curfew the day it was announced. It started at 11 p.m. in Martin Luther King Jr. Park and lasted until roughly 2 a.m., when police arrested 30 people and charged them with violating the curfew. According to the complaint, among those arrested were members of Free the People Roc and the Lawyers Guild, who were acting as legal observers.
Martin and the Lawyers Guild claim that those arrests violated their free speech rights. They’re asking the court to order the city to “refrain from interfering or otherwise policing lawful and peaceful assemblies and protests in the city of Rochester,” to cease enforcement of the curfew, and for officers to refrain from covering their names and badge numbers when they are on duty, as well as to provide the name and badge number upon request.
The lawsuit alleges that when Katherine Adamides, a legal observer with the Lawyers Guild, tried to write down the names of 19 police officers lined up at the scene of the protest, 14 of them covered their names with tape, their hands, or their arms. Three of the officers, it claims, covered their badge numbers.
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.