by KIRSTEN MARTIN
(WXIR--Rochester) A crowd gathered in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Sunday for a “Learn In” held by Free The People Roc - Rochester’s Black Lives Matter chapter.
Organizers invited members of the audience to come up and speak. Black people don’t need anyone to “let them" take up space, organizers said, but encouraged allies to speak up and amplify the messages they’ve already been sending.
Silvon Simmons’ parents were then invited to speak. They likened what happened to their son in 2016 to the case of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Simmons was shot 3 times in the back by RPD Officer Joseph Ferrigno and charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer. Simmons has since been acquitted.
Asa Adams also addressed the crowd and spoke to the need for young people to be leading the Black Lives Matter movement, drawing parallels with his own experiences as a young man in the Civil Rights Movement.
The second part of the afternoon consisted of a march on the downtown Public Safety Building in solidarity with the Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha.
Whole families, including some with young children, took to the streets to shut down traffic. Bicyclists helped form movable barricades whenever protesters had to cross intersections.
After arriving at the Public Safety Building, protesters pulled down a barricade, with some shouting “what are you afraid of." RPD officers in the back line held Pepper Ball guns, now a regular presence at BLM protests.
There was a small scuffle as protesters stood on the toppled metal fencing and chanted “hands up don’t shoot” and again when protesters attempted to walk toward officers. But the remainder of the protest continued without incident.
Upon completing the route back to the park, organizers thanked everyone for attending and directed them to see members of the Food Not Bombs collective for some food.
Although August has now come and gone, organizers reminded the crowd that the summer of protest for racial justice would continue next week with another action.
KIRSTEN MARTIN is a photographer and volunteer contributor for Reclaiming the Narrative.