by Black Lives Matter Roc – The States
Photos – Leslie Hannon Photography
Rochester, NY – On Saturday, July 7th, 2018, 16 people were arrested while peacefully declaring the mantra, “Black Lives Matter”. The protesters were making a statement against the harsh reality that Black lives aren’t valued or held in the same regard as white lives.
Black Lives Matter Roc organized a march in Downtown Rochester that concluded with an act of civil disobedience on the intersection of Woodbury and S. Clinton Avenue. The Rochester Police Department deployed a contingent of riot police equipped with less lethal weapons at 7:15 PM, disrupting the peaceful demonstration. The decision to decline speaking to media was made on the account that mainstream media outlets have historically changed and/or manipulated the narrative of people protesting in the name of Black lives, equality, and equity. Despite the clear disinterest in engaging with these outlets, they still reported on the hypocrisy of the Rochester Police Department.
While speaking in Canandaigua, New York in 1857, one of Rochester’s most prominent figures, Frederick Douglass stated:
“It is not within the power of unaided human nature to persevere in pitying a people who are insensible to their own wrongs and indifferent to the attainment of their own rights. The poet was as true to common sense as to poetry when he said, “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”
We believe that oppressed must take their liberation and narratives in their own hands. We mustn’t ask the powers at be to expose themselves for what they are, we must take it upon ourselves to speak and act upon our truth.
The Rochester Police Department displayed a hyper-militarized response to what most would deem a peaceful display of love, expression of self, and solidarity. They invaded the intersection of Woodbury and S. Clinton with guns, batons, helicopters flying overhead. What we witnessed and experienced is reminiscent to what one would see in an active war zone.
The Rochester Police Department and police departments across the country pride themselves on being the forces that are here to protect and serve. But serve who, exactly? Why is it that highlighting and empowering narratives of a people who have been overlooked causes such commotion? We are conditioned to believe that these are normal responses to “unruly” and “rowdy” which makes it an easier pill for the masses to swallow. Black Lives Matter Roc are taking our narratives, our experiences, and breaking down and exposing the system for what it is — not what has been fed to us. We will continue to walk, breathe, live, and act in our truth.
This is truly a rally cry for black folks all over to walk in that light, breathe that truth, and put that into action. Our empowerment will come from within, not from the same institutions that have justified our mistreatment for centuries.
The Rochester Police Department and The City of Rochester have shown themselves to be in opposition to the fight for Black lives, and we do not see them fit to ensure that our voices will be heard. As Black people, this realization means finding means and ways to achieve that ourselves, outside of the mainstream outlets and narratives presented to us.
Again, this is a rally cry, battle cry, call of action for all Black people to start challenging, asking questions, reconstructing our stories, and engaging in actions that will push us further to our collective goal of freedom from this system.
We are all we have, and in that, we have all we need.