Less than 24 hours after a few hundred people inflicted major property damage across the Rochester area, a few thousand more turned up with brooms, gloves and garbage bags and set to work cleaning it up.
Warner Iveris and his husband grabbed the few supplies they had in their home — a broom and a dustpan — and came over to help clean up with other volunteers working near the looted Villa apparel store off East Main Street. They stopped by some of their other favorite businesses on their way over to make sure each one was OK.
“We were concerned because we could see on the news (the damage to) this place right around the corner from us,” Iveris said. “This is where we live, you know? I’d like to get it back to normal, as soon as we can, and help just repair the damage.”
Others took it upon themselves to guard the places they frequent. Three people stood outside a corner store on Lexington Avenue, broken glass and half-empty boxes of candy and bubble gum at their feet, and quietly talked about what they had heard Saturday night.
They’d tried calling the owner, they said. Couldn’t reach him, so they’d decided to sit and wait for him to come by. The store is one of the only places to get groceries within walking distance for them and they didn’t want anyone coming by and stealing anything else.
The city of Rochester organized the citywide cleanup beginning at 10 a.m. at Frontier Field — the Ibero-American Action League coordinated work from the Father Tracy Center — while some people associated with the original Black Lives Matter protest already had been planning to gather downtown.
"At a moment’s notice those individuals came (from) ... all across this community picking up glass, boarding up windows, making sure that our neighborhoods are safe and sound,” Warren said later. “That’s the Rochester that we know and that we love.”
The volunteers were joined Sunday by 200 state troopers, dispatched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be on hand in case there is further violence Sunday night. The Rochester Police Department was stretched to capacity Saturday, particularly after some of its cruisers were destroyed.
"For tonight, Rochester has asked for 200 additional police so we’ll do that,” Gov. Cuomo said at a press briefing Sunday. “If we need more, we have the National Guard. It’s just making sure we have resources to adjust to situations."
The Rochester Police Department said 13 people were arrested Saturday evening on charges including burglary and obstruction of justice. Chief La'Ron Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren said more arrests will be forthcoming.
Warren said that the destruction, which gutted many services and businesses used by black families and that grandmothers, mothers and children would now suffer because of the loss of access to stores.
The violence and looting came after, and separate from, a well attended peaceful protest against racial injustice, particularly the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
Another countywide curfew will go into effect at 9 p.m. Sunday into early Monday.
Throughout the city, vandalized buildings drew a steady stream of onlookers. People walked by boarded-up storefronts and stepped carefully over shards of glass, aiming their phones at the wreckage.
At Rainbow, a clothing store on Lake Avenue completely ransacked on Saturday evening, an employee from Genesee Mirror and Glass walked around the property, measuring each cracked window and carefully removing pieces of broken glass. He stopped what he was doing several times to answer his phone and tell the caller on the other end that no, he couldn’t help them, and no, he’d be busy for a very long time.
Around 10:30 a.m., Danielle Tucker walked up to the store and lifted her camera up to her eye to take a photo of it. Photography is a beloved hobby of hers, she said, but she felt compelled to document Saturday’s protest and Sunday’s cleanup process.
“I’m not saying that this is peaceful,” Tucker said. “These people that are going into stores like this, they’re not angry and they’re not getting their pain out by going to loot Rainbow. However, it ignited with that one incident and … it’s related. We need to feel this."
Moments later, Chris Bell of Action for a Better Community walked over — also with a digital camera in his hands. The two talked about the reasons they were drawn to the scene and how they felt George Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and, hopefully, some change.
“Unfortunately it had to take so much damage and it had to hit our pockets the way it did,” Tucker said. “However, something good’s going to come out of it.”