ROCHESTER'S FERGUSON MARCH CANCELLED
The downtown Rochester Ferguson march scheduled for Sunday afternoon has been cancelled.
That development, revealed by one of the event’s organizers, is driven by a public perception that the march is intended to be an affront or insult to the police.
That perception has grown since shortly after the verdict Monday night when Mayor Lovely Warren announced the march on her Facebook page. Her remarks criticized the decision of a Missouri grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, said that police we inadequately trained and insensitive, and that police didn’t have regard for black lives.
The posting, though defended by the mayor, was deeply upsetting and drew more than 1,000 comments to her page, along with other thousands of remarks on Rochester media websites.
Most troubling was deep offense at the remarks taken by the family of recently slain Rochester police Officer Daryl Pierson. A brother of the murdered policeman angry challenged the mayor’s posting and she responded with a post that reiterated her position.
Caught in the middle of this whole ugliness was the mayor’s reference to the Sunday march. Her announcement was the first the march had been publicly known, and she may not have positioned it well.
The march, expected to start at the Liberty Pole and proceed to the Federal Building, quickly became an irritant to people who feel that the mayor and others – to include the president – have backstabbed police, especially the Rochester Police Department.
That turns out to be ironic because the march, according to some involved in planning it, was originally suggested by the Rochester Police Department.
And the march, as envisioned by police, was intended to dissipate public frustration and reduce the risk of riot. A similar police-planned march was held in Rochester for exactly the same purpose at the time of the Treyvon Martin verdict.
That march, which attracted some 1,000 participants, is felt by some to have allowed a positive, legal outlet for frustration that arose from the Martin verdict.
The police decided to employ such a tactic again because of repeated and escalating warnings from the federal government about the potential for widespread civil disruption in the wake of a Ferguson decision.
Apparently, federal Homeland Security and Justice Department officials have warned local officials through the fall that the expected “no bill” for the Ferguson officer would be very disruptive and that cities should fear the worst. Rochester public officials may not have agreed with this assessment, thinking that most people believed there would be no indictment and had made peace with that, but did not feel comfortable ignoring the federal warning.
So a meeting was convened November 16 at which the Rochester Police Department, at the direction of an acting chief, asked a local prominent figure to organize a march similar to the one held after the Trayvon Martin verdict. The event, a march, was to include the police as participants, and was meant to focus, dissipate and, if necessary, control community upset.
In the interest of preventing riot and its resultant potential for injury and property damage, various people agreed to organize or support the march.
Mayor Lovely Warren was not at the meeting, but was presumably notified after and was supportive.
So, the Rochester Ferguson march is actually a police-planned, crowd-control event on the shelf for 10 days awaiting the verdict.
All in all, that’s a good thing. Legitimate concern was addressed with an event that both protects the community and allows people to express their opinions. It is smart police work, and good municipal planning.
But it got presented wrong.
When the mayor first let word of the march slip, in her Facebook posting seeming to skewer the police, the march came across as being part of a screw-the-cops statement.
Instead of a tool of the police, it became publicly perceived as an insult to the police. It became a situation where the sense was that you should march in the event if you didn’t like the police.
Further, given the way the arguments went on the mayor’s Facebook page, the march and its explanation were perceived as insulting to the family and memory of slain Rochester Officer Daryl Pierson.
That’s no good.
And that has led to the cancellation.
Might that change? Could the march come back? Not known at this point.
But organizers of the march, thinking they were helping the police and protecting the city from the possibility of civil disruption, don’t want to face the ire of people who think the march is anti-police or pro-crook. Further, they don’t want to be part of something that morphs into an anti-police event because of mistaken perception.
What was intended to be a good thing kind of got sideways and has been called off.
And that, the best I can determine, is what’s up with the Rochester Ferguson march.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2014