Rochester Mayor Imposes Ban On Public Gatherings, Using Health Emergency to Criminalize Violations
by DARIEN LAMEN
(WXIR-Rochester) Mayor Lovely Warren updated the standing emergency health order for the City of Rochester Wednesday to include a ban on gatherings between the hours of 11pm and 5am, citing "recent gun violence."
The updated emergency order prohibits gatherings of 5 or more people outdoors, and 10 or more people indoors until further notice. Licensed restaurants and bars are exempt.
"Because we are under an executive order from the governor, and we also are under a health order from the mayor's office here, we can add this provision to that executive order," Warren said.
New York State Police officers will be sent to Rochester at the Mayor's request to enforce the ban starting this weekend.
RPD Chief La'Ron Singletary said that several recent "illegal parties" held on private property, parks, and city lots were "the impetus for many of the recent shootings." The RPD says there have been 70 shootings and 8 shooting-related deaths since June 1st.
However, Singletary acknowledged that violent crime in Rochester is lower than it was at this point last year. "But if we continue this trend with the number of shootings we're seeing we will obviously beat the trend," he added.
City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said, "For me, to be chair of [the City's] Public Safety [Committee] as well as Chairman of the ROC Against Gun Violence coalition, I stand in collaboration and in partnership with the mayor, the police chief, and all the first responders" in urging "compliance" with the mayor's updated order.
"We have to understand that these human lives that we're losing in our community are important and they matter as well too," Lightfoot said in an apparent dig at Black Lives Matter activists with whom Lightfoot has recently sparred. "These efforts that we're doing I think are preventative," Lightfoot said.
Chief Singletary said Wednesday that New York State's recently-passed bail reform law tied his officers hands in dealing with people at the house parties in question. In most cases, the RPD has only been able to issue citations, he said, but was not able to make arrests.
"The mayor has given us another tool in our toolbelt," Singletary said of the mayor's updated COVID-19 emergency order, noting that violation of an emergency order is a B misdemeanor that carries a $500 fine and up to 3 months in jail.
Jails and prisons have been hot-spots for COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began.
Citing the pandemic, Singletary also suggested party organizers could be charged with criminal negligence and reckless endangerment.
"We will continue to pursue the organizers of these parties, the DJs, we will confiscate equipment," Singletary said Wednesday.
"We ask that you all join with us," Mayor Warren said. "If you see something, say something."
Darien Lamen is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.