Saying that poverty is behind much of the violence in Rochester, Mike Johnson, organizer of Save Rochester – Black Lives Matter, said he had scheduled separate meetings with Mayor Lovely Warren and Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan to discuss approaches each could or would take.
“The police are saying it’s the criminals who disregard life,” Johnson said. “No. It’s desperate people.”
Johnson pointed to a disconnect. “They have never, ever been in a situation where they’ve been that desperate in their lives. It’s unfathomable. If they went without a good hearty warm meal for a week, how about three days, I bet they would start to show some of the same desperation we see of people in poverty in our communities.”
Johnson declined to say what he specifically would ask the mayor and chief. “The plan is for them to listen about what we’re saying about poverty.”
Johnson announced the meetings in a news release Feb. 15 that highlighted shootings over the previous weekend.
“I think it’s incredibly naïve to think people grow up and are just bad people,” he said. “When are we going to move away from that narrative? Being a criminal is not genetic.”
He said many elected officials remain silent until there are significant events such as the death of Daniel Prude or the incident with the 9-year-old.
“Being Black in America is an everyday event,” Johnson said. “There are people who experience microaggressions, biases, just because I’m in this skin. And we experience that on a day to day basis, not just when a huge event happens.”