In an effort to quell violence seen over the previous six weeks, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued an emergency order that prohibits large, unsanctioned gatherings.
The order took effect July 15 and came in response to an increase in shooting incidents, shooting victims and individuals killed by gun violence.
Under the emergency order:
- no public gatherings of five or more people are allowed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and
- no indoor gatherings of 10 or more unrelated individuals will be allowed from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. unless the location is licensed by the state Alcohol Beverage Control Law.
- laws and regulations regarding public gatherings will be strictly enforced;
- sound systems and equipment used for illegal gatherings will be confiscated; and
- State Police will provide troopers to assist RPD.
Warren said the efforts are to protect neighborhoods and families. She cited instances elsewhere in the nation where children had been killed by gunfire.
“We all deserve to feel safe in our own neighborhoods,” Warren said at a City Hall news conference.
Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said resources needed to disperse illegal gatherings delay response to other 911 calls. He said some parties have drawn 300 to 500 people.
He said violators would be charged with a misdemeanor and under criminal justice reforms enacted earlier this year, most likely be given an appearance ticket.
Warren said the restrictions do not apply to daytime protests.
The curfew was tested hours after she announced it. At about 10:45 p.m., a group of protestors formed at Martin Luther King Jr. Park to challenge the order, according to Rochester Police. The group walked to East Avenue and Alexander Street and then back to the park, where they stayed for several hours.
Police said that over several hours, they provided numerous orders for the group to disperse. Some did leave. At about 2 a.m. July 16, officers began arresting what came to a total of 30 individuals who refused to leave. Police said no force was used and no injuries were reported.
All of the protestors were issued appearance tickets to return to Rochester City Court at a later date. All were charged with violating New York State Executive Law (Section 24), a class B misdemeanor.
At her news conference, Warren said the city was alerted to a potential protest over the weekend that may include a demonstration on part of Interstate-490 in the city. She said the organizers are obligated to ensure safety for the participants and that the city would assist in keeping them safe. That possible protest is different from the one July 15-16.
The mayor said the emergency order for the curfew is in response to large gatherings in empty lots, parks and sidewalks that have led to drive-by shootings. The order can be renewed, and she said it will stay in effect as long as needed and as long as the city can issue emergency orders in response to COVID-19.
In issuing the order, Warren also implored people “to make different decisions.” She said the community can and must be better.
“We must insist that everybody act responsibly and with dignity,” she said. “We cannot continue to act in the manner in which we are. It is an absolute shame and an atrocity that 70 people have been shot in the last two months.”
Of those 70 shootings, eight were fatal. In addition, there were 10 stabbings and 23 arrests for criminal possession of a weapon between June 1 and July 15.
“Imagine if those 70 people shot were actually killed,” Warren said. “The intent when you pick up a gun and fire it is actually to kill someone, not wound them, not to make sure they survive, but actually kill them. It can’t be undone.”
The city released crime statistics that showed the overall crime rate down trending down over five years and from 2019 to this year. But compared to last year, shooting incidents, shooting victims and gun deaths had increased.
Warren said a cluster of factors could be leading to the violence – a sense of hopelessness from job loss related to COVID-19, confinement during the pandemic and weariness from heat may have driven people to act of fear, hate and hopelessness.
Warren said Pathways to Peace teams also would be involved by responding to gatherings and working with the public to educate and disperse illegal crowds.
Click here to comment on this story from our Facebook page.