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Police arrest 32 at Occupy Rochester, N.Y.

Published Nov 2, 2011 9:18 PM

Shortly after midnight on Oct. 28, on orders from the mayor, the Rochester police arrested 32 members of the Occupy Rochester encampment at Washington Square Park, making it the first occupation in New York State to be forcibly arrested and evicted. Nearly 150 supporters stood on the sidewalks surrounding the small park chanting, “Whose park, our park!” and “Shame, shame!”

Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 28.
Photo: Bill Finan

Earlier, at 5 p.m., there had been a large march from the Liberty Pole about three blocks away, where daily protests and rallies in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been going on since Oct. 1. The protesters rallied and set up tents and banners, intending to begin a permanent occupation, but Mayor Tom Richards had already decided to make a preemptive strike.

At 10:30 p.m., the chief of police himself showed up at the park, backed by a dozen squad cars and police vans for carting away prisoners. He made a great show of publicly warning the occupiers that there was an 11 p.m. curfew in place for public parks, but waited until after most of the media had left to start making arrests.

James Bertolone, president of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, officially condemned the arrests, saying, “I am even more disturbed by the fact that City officials made the decision to arrest people many hours before the actual protest. Our office received a warning from City Hall many hours before the demonstration because, we believe, of our organization’s support of the Occupy Wall Street protests.” (Email bulletin, Oct. 29)

Following the arrests, the remaining protesters marched to the jail and maintained a vigil until early in the morning, when most of those arrested were released. A working group of Occupy Rochester has been formed to provide legal defense and strategy for those arrested.

The following night, protesters again challenged police and maintained a presence inside and on the edge of the park until dawn. There are plans to continue this activity until Nov. 2, when a large rally and march to City Hall to protest the arrests is planned. A decision about whether to massively confront the police again and reoccupy the site, or to choose another site, will be made that evening.

The exorbitant bail, multiple charges and massive police presence shows that Mayor Richards — a millionaire and former CEO of the Rochester Gas and Electric Co. — and the rest of the ruling elite of Rochester are determined to try to crush the occupation movement here before it grows any larger. Occupy Rochester is just as determined to resist.