|Rochester, N.Y. Mayor Thomas Richards|
He had only been in office less than eight months, when Rochester, N.Y. Mayor Thomas Richards set a State record. Richards was the first Mayor in New York State to order the arrests of peaceful protesters at the Occupy Rochester movement in the city's downtown Washington Square Park.
Richards ordered the Rochester Police Department and R.P.D. Chief James Sheppard, to descend on the park and personally arrest innocent citizens, including Emily Good, the woman who made International news when she was arrested by Rochester Police Officer Mario Masic, after she videotaped Masic and other white R.P.D. cops conducting a racially profiled traffic stop of an African-American motorist.
The Rochester Police Department arrested a total of 48 people at Occupy Rochester. This disgusting act on behalf of Richards and the Rochester Police Department, is another black eye on the face of Rochester. Much like the irony that here in Rochester, the birthplace of Photography and Film and of Kodak founder George Eastman, Emily Good was arrested and had her Constitutional Rights violated for filming police with her camera, so too, it's ironic that here in Rochester, the home of Civil rights leaders Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, the Mayor would order the arrests of peaceful protesters. Perhaps KaeLyn Rich, director of the NYCLU's Genesee Valley Chapter said it best. "Cracking down on the Occupy Rochester protest violates the spirit of the First Amendment and is an affront to our city's great civil rights legacy".
In a recent interview Richards claimed that his decision to order the arrests was based on the fact that the park is city owned, and that city code prohibits anyone from assembling at the park between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Mayor Richards refused to issue a special permit allowing protesters to remain at the park during those hours. Richards then stated that protesters would be allowed to remain on the sidewalk surrounding the park, as long as they were not in the park after hours. Then, in perhaps what can be called Richard's most nastiest move, he sent R.P.D. members back in to the park to warn protesters that contrary to what he had previously said, they would not be permitted to remain on the sidewalk.
Then, with mounting pressure from the NYCLU and Occupy Rochester supporters, Richards did an about face. On Thursday, November 10, 2011 Richards agreed to allow Occupy Rochester to remain at Washington Square Park at all hours. This coming from a man who adamantly stated he would not budge from his decision of not allowing protesters to stay in the park all day.
But please don't let the Mayor's "good deed" fool you. Thomas Richards, like any politician is only concerned about his self image, and best interest. Be assured that his decision to allow the Occupy Rochester movement all day access to Washington Square Park, was not only because of outside pressure, but also on the advise of his staff, who basically told him that the arrests of innocent citizens, and his stance were putting Rochester in a bad light and didn't look good for him as Mayor.
From the beginning of the Occupy Rochester movement, Richards made it clear by ordering the R.P.D. to arrest peaceful protesters, that he would not support Occupy Rochester. Then, at one point, Richards had the audacity to say that despite his decision to arrest four dozen protesters, he actually agreed with many of the points the Occupy movement stands for. Really? Let's break this down...
Thomas Richards got his start here in Rochester as an attorney for a high profile law firm where he worked for 19 years, from 1972 until 1991. That same year, Richards joined RGS, the parent of company of Rochester Gas and Electric, Rochester's monopoly energy company, where he quickly moved up the Corporate ladder, serving as General Counsel, Senior Vice President for Corporate Services, Senior Vice President for Finance, and President and CEO.
In 2002, RG&E paid Thomas Richards more than ten million dollars as part of a buyout, when it was acquired by utility holding company, Energy East Corporation. As part of the merger, Richards sold out hundreds of local workers, who lost their jobs as part of layoffs.
In 2006, Richards was hand picked by former Rochester Police Chief, turned Rochester Mayor and now New York State Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, to serve as the City's "Corporation Counsel". Notice the word "Corporation" as in Corporate, which many people forget, or don't realize, that the City of Rochester, as any other city, is first and foremost, a Corporation. When Andrew Cuomo announced he was running for New York State Governor, he chose Robert Duffy as his running mate for Lt. Governor. When Cuomo won last November, a special election was held to replace Duffy as Mayor, and Richards won that election, and was sworn in as Rochester's 66th Mayor in April 2011.
So, for Richards to go in front of cameras and actually say that he agrees with some of Occupy's points, then order the R.P.D. to converge on Washington Square Park and arrest innocent, peaceful protesters is not only hypocritical, but disgusting. Especially, when like Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden said, there are other parks in Rochester where there is around the clock drug dealing going on, and where Richards should be ordering R.P.D. Chief Sheppard to deploy his thugs with uniforms, instead of unleashing them on innocent people. But, like McFadden also said "It's easy to arrest the good guys, not so easy to arrest the bad guys".
Maybe it's me, but I just don't get what Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards could possibly have in common with the 99%. I mean he is clearly part of the 1%, in fact Richards could easily be the poster child for what is wrong with this country. For the disproportionate balance between the "haves" and the "have nots". For the disgusting greed that exists, where CEO's are paid millions upon millions of dollars in bonuses and buyouts, while homeless people sleep in cardboard boxes under 490 overpasses, while the U.S. Government bails out banks who then turn around and evict grandmothers from their homes.
Simply put, Rochester, N.Y. Mayor Thomas Richards is the reason we need Occupy movements not only here in Rochester, but throughout the country! Thomas Richards is as "Corporate America" as they come. Thomas Richards cares about Thomas Richards, not about the 99%, not about innocent citizens at a park, not about the hundreds of RG&E workers who were laid off while he profited millions, and especially not about a movement calling out the 1% he belongs to.