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The RPD and 'block-clearing'

Six years ago, officers of the Rochester Police Department pulled Benny Warr from his wheelchair and struck him while he was waiting for the bus. The officers, intent on clearing the area, were sued. This February, an all-white jury vaguely acknowledged that one officer used excessive of force, but said he did nothing criminal. They unanimously agreed that Warr's arrest was legitimate and awarded him $1.

Much of the evidence presented was provided by "the blue light camera," an ever- running camera on top of a telephone pole collecting ongoing video footage of Jefferson Avenue. A recurring phrase that kept being mentioned was "the 500 block was clear" in reference to the successful efforts of the police who eventually arrested Benny.

The 500 block was cleared, except for Benny and two to four others waiting for the bus. Why is it a "success" to clear the streets in a black neighborhood? Are people, mostly black, who demonstrate life on the 500 block animals? Are police officers dogs with the responsibility of herding mostly black inhabitants away from where police don't want people to go?

Unfortunately, the police were thorough in their efforts. They attacked Benny as if a less violent, official citation was insufficient. Pepper sprayed, removed from his wheelchair, kneed and elbow-struck in the head, handcuffed, and taken away in an ambulance, Benny Warr was "cleared" from the 500 block of Jefferson Avenue.

If we, as a society, want life to thrive on Jefferson Avenue, we can't assume that black lives don't qualify. Benny Warr's life matters. Black lives matter.


Best partners for RCSD

While Roc the Future has declared themselves arrogantly as the unilateral voice of the Rochester community, the voice of parents and children of the Rochester City School District is not included, by design.

That is evident in Roc the Future's call to the State Education Department, unilaterally self-proclaiming that they are "the best partner to actively assure that [all] voices are represented."

How audacious! How arrogant! To put on this self-anointed mantle when the community itself – parents, students and community leaders – have not been advised or included. That is "to come," they say. Sure.

There is nothing more worthwhile than to engage at the outset those voices – those who are most directly victimized year after year by a dysfunctional Rochester city school system that is sucking the spirit, the opportunity, the very life out of the children in this district on a daily basis.

Every effort to improve this dysfunctional school district must reflect and include the parents and students it serves.

The racism in this city, county, and school district must be openly addressed at all segments of the district. That racism is evident through and through. It seeps into the instruction and socialization of our children and fouls their experience. That is why there is a resounding cry for mandatory anti-racist education for the RCSD staff.

The coalition of the Take It Down Planning Committee, the Faith Community Alliance, and the Movement for Anti-Racist Ministry and Action is sponsoring a community forum with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Deputy Commissioner Jhone Ebert, and Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino to discuss the Aquino Report and the response of the Board of Education, and to continue inviting real community response, on Saturday, March 30, 1 to 4 p.m. at the Central Church of Christ. All are welcome to participate.

Racial issues relating to the quality of the RCSD education are being discussed bi-monthly as a part of the district-sponsored Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership Team composed of community members, teachers, and parents, in which a racial equity action plan is being created, now a board approved initiative.

All are invited to any and all of these ongoing discussions.


Walling is a community member of the Movement for Anti-Racist Ministry and Action.

Ibero's plan needs changes

Ibero-American Development Corporation's housing he development, as planned, will make our street unattractive and congested. Our 40-signature Hoeltzer Street petition did not oppose the project, but stated that the development should be limited to one and two-family dwellings with driveways (not three-family dwellings with mini-parking lots); and building proportions in sync with existing houses on the street, especially height (instead of the massive apartment houses that are planned). These changes could easily be implemented with a little design development and some good will.

The only boarded-up house on Hoeltzer Street is owned by Ibero and waiting for rehabilitation.


Cehelsky is a architect and long-time resident of Hoeltzer Street.

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