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Something to Think About: Not a Protest!

Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn

Rev. Michael Vaughn, Sr. Pastor, New Wineskin Church

Recently Rochester experienced the one-year anniversary of the death of Daniel Prude.  This death caused many ripple effects in the city of Rochester.  The Chief of Police was fired, there were many protests and a report regarding his death showed that the city government worked to cover up how Daniel Prude died.  As the death of Daniel Prude was remembered, a group of protestors took their protest way too far and in my humble opinion set their cause back.

Before getting into the heart of my discussion this week, I do want to state emphatically, that I believe that protesting is part of the American experience and people should be allowed to protest in a manner that is lawful.  The protests that occurred on the anniversary of Daniel Prude’s death were horrible and violated the laws of America and put innocent people in jeopardy.  The protestors marched to the Wegman’s store on East Avenue and because of their unknown intentions, management at Wegman’s decided to lock the store down.  There were at least 100 people that were trapped in the store for a number of hours.  Someone that may have run into the store for a quick purchase or needed to purchase something for a child or needed to get back to a child or elderly parent were unable to.  Even those that just needed to get back to work were hindered from doing so.  This protest was nothing more than a hijacking and trespassing.

Here in America a protest does not take place on private property and does not hijack innocent people.  For the ills that occurred that cost Daniel Prude his life, Wegman’s and the people that were in the store that day had NOTHING to do with his death and therefore should not have been impacted because of it.  The organizers of this event believe that they were furthering their cause but the exact opposite is going to happen.  Folks that may have sympathized with their objectives were completely turned off at this horrific display.  People deserve the right to go to the grocery store in peace and not be subject to a lockdown and then being yelled at when they’re finally able to get out and into their cars to leave.  The other thing that occurred is that the parking lot was littered with chalked sayings.  This is nothing more than vandalism as it was not approved by the owners of this parking lot.

It was hard to believe that this was happening and even harder to hear that folks were justifying these actions.  When things like this happen, it can have the effect of closing down businesses that will only impact the community where that business is located and that is not something that is needed in the city of Rochester, a place where all the jobs that we can muster is a true blessing.  The other thing that was hard to see was that the police did not force these folks to disband.  The reason why this was hard to watch was because of the precedent that was being set as well as what the police officers may have been told in what they could and could not do.  Something like that could only have come from either the chief of police or the mayor; either of which goes against keeping the peace.  When this occurs what it does is that it empowers others (or even this same group) to do similar things.  Law and order must be maintained and the public needs to know that they are safe as they move about.  If they don’t feel safe altercations are bound to occur, which no one wants.

There is a problem that needs to be addressed in the city of Rochester but it must be done in a strategic manner that builds support and can have long lasting effects.  What happened at the East Avenue Wegman’s is not it and should never happen again!

Rev. Michael Vaughn is senior pastor of New Wineskin Church. Contact him at mvaughn.seniorpastor@newwineskin.org

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