Police, protesters clash over City Hall occupation

The occupation of Rochester City Hall came to an end Wednesday

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
The Rev. Myra Brown speaks with a police officer Wednesday on Fitzhugh Street in Rochester.

ROCHESTER — The morning after Black Lives Matter protesters took over City Hall, around 20 people were arrested as police officers and protesters faced off on the streets surrounding the building.

Organizers on Tuesday said that they would remain outside the building until police officers involved in Daniel Prude’s detainment and death are arrested and fired. After a brief march through downtown Rochester Tuesday morning, more than 150 people blocked entrances to the building, preventing anyone from entering City Hall just as the building opened for the day.

Protesters have said the sit-in will continue for "as long as it takes."

Police began a series of maneuvers to block off Fitzhugh Street north of City Hall shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. They progressed east on Church Street, forcing protesters to retreat and arresting those who did not.

"Employees and citizens need to access City Hall," one officer repeatedly announced via loudspeaker. "You are blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic to City Hall. You are hereby ordered to clear the street and sidewalk. Failure to disperse from the sidewalk and street immediately will result in your arrest."

Officers and protesters around 8:30 a.m. were lined up and facing one another on Church Street, outside City Hall. About 15 protesters remained on the roads, facing police, shortly before 9 a.m. Protesters moved most of tents off the road onto the sidewalk.

The Rev. Myra Brown, pastor of Spiritus Christi Church, arrived about 9:30 a.m. She and organizer Ashley Gantt spoke with media, then negotiated with Capt. Ray Dearcop on the front line in the street.

After a tense hour, a compromise was reached: police would stand back and allow protesters to gather their tents and other items. Gantt said the protesters would stay until those arrested Tuesday morning were released.

Around 10 a.m., Gantt said that police would be backing out of the area and would clean up posters and paint on City Hall, and would allow protesters to move their tents and other belongings into Spiritus Christi Church.

"We're going to be here on the sidewalks until everyone who was arrested is released," Gantt said.

Around 40 minutes later, sanitation workers were removing fliers and red paint that protesters put on City Hall Tuesday.

Previously closed roads near City Hall have reopened to vehicular traffic.

Police had closed Church Street, between Plymouth Avenue and State Street since Tuesday morning. Officers also closed a stretch of State Street on Wednesday morning.

The flags are back

Shortly after protesters arrived at City Hall for a sit-in on Tuesday, they removed and carefully folded an American flag and a second flag from outside City Hall.

Around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, both flags were raised and again posted on the poles outside City Hall. A Black Lives Matter flag was removed from one pole (the spot dedicated for the U.S. flag) and was added to another pole, flying below the City of Rochester flag.

During a roughly 24-hour span when the American flag and New York flag were replaced on the respective poles by a Black Lives Matter flag and a Pride flag, both flags were in possession of the Rochester police.

Protesters face off with Rochester police officers in front of City Hall on Wednesday.