Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As Thousands Turn Out for Trayvon Martin March, What About Injustices Right Here in Rochester?


On Sunday, March 25th I attended the rally for Trayvon Martin, at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester. Trayvon, a 17 year old African-American young man who was walking from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida,  where he had just purchased a bag of Skittles and a can of Ice Tea, when George Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, and self appointed neighborhood watch vigilante, thought Trayvon, who was wearing a hoodie, looked "suspicious". Zimmerman followed Trayvon despite a 911 operator telling him not to, got out of his SUV and shot Trayvon in the chest with a 9mm handgun, killing the young man.

Earlier in the day Sunday, me and my two boys, David and Danny, who are African-American and Latino, sat down at the kitchen table and made signs. I explained to my sons that they were about to participate in a very important march calling for justice for Trayvon, and for the arrest of George Zimmerman, whom the Sanford, Florida Police department has refused to charge for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Within minutes throngs of people arrived at the Liberty Pole wearing hoodies and holding up signs. My boys held up cans of Ice Tea, and packs of Skittles candy along with the signs we made, which read "JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON ARREST GEORGE ZIMERMAN NOW!" and "WOULD GEORGE ZIMMERMAN HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IF TRAYVON WAS WHITE?". Cars honked their horns, as more and more people joined the rally. A short time later I heard the voice of Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden, projecting from a megaphone. Then a local businessman also said a few words, along with a couple of women.

As I stood there taking it all in, I had mixed emotions. It was great to see thousands of people demanding justice, but I was also sad. You see, as a filmmaker, writer and activist who has spent the last 15 plus years exposing the Rochester Police department's long history of abusing and in some cases, murdering unarmed innocent African-Americans and Latinos, and having attended countless protests, rallies and marches, I thought to myself, how sad that it takes the killing of an innocent African-American young man, more than 1,200 miles and 7 states away from Rochester, for people here in our community to finally stand up, organize, and demand justice. I also couldn't help but think where were all these people, every time a trigger happy R.P.D. cop has murdered an innocent person?

In the past, no rally here in Rochester, calling for justice, especially after an innocent person has been gunned down by the R.P.D., has exceeded more than 100 people, if that. In fact, most recently when Hayden Blackman was killed by Rochester Police officer Randy Book in his home, I attended a few rallies where hardly anyone showed up. And, a few years ago, when WHAM radio host Bob Lonsberry called former Rochester Mayor William Johnson, who is African-American, an"orangutan", I organized a rally calling for WHAM to fire Lonsberry. Fewer than 15 people showed up to protest and join me and my brother in demanding that the radio station fire Lonsberry. Despite the fact that hardly anyone showed up to support us, and WHAM's Susan Ashline calling the police on me and trying to have me arrested, I held my ground. Immediately after our rally, WHAM fired Lonsberry in a public relations move, only to rehire him a year later.

But perhaps what I found most disgusting and ironic at Trayvon's march was when the rally reached the Federal building on State Street, I saw a very familiar face, that of Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards. Richards, Rochester's millionaire mayor, who, I think it's important to point out, didn't join in the actual march from the Liberty Pole, instead he decided to walk less than a block from City Hall to join in at the end of the march. Mayor Thomas Richards, who could care less about the R.P.D. gunning down an innocent African-American or Latino in our city, actually had the nerve to show his face at a rally for an African-American teen. Mayor Thomas Richards, who just recently announced a new R.P.D. substation to be located in the Sibley building downtown. In other words, more R.P.D. officers joining the ones already harassing and abusing innocent African-American and Latino youth, like I wrote in my March 23rd column: "The R.P.D. Just Doesn't Get It."

But wait, Mayor Richards wasn't alone, he was joined by Rochester City Councilmembers Loretta Scott, and Dana Miller, two officials, who I not only have never seen at any rally, but I have also never heard either one of them speak out or denounce the R.P.D.'s long history of gunning down African-Americans here in Rochester!

As I stood with my two boys, just a few feet away from Adam McFadden, I asked him for the bullhorn, as I couldn't stand the hypocrisy any more. McFadden, who I have known for years, ever since high school, gave me the "Oh no you're not" look. Adam knows me, and because he knows me, and knows I am not afraid to call it like it is, he refused to give me the opportunity to address the crowd. Had Adam given me, the father of two African-American and Latino boys, and a longtime community activist against the corrupt Rochester Police Department, that respect, I would have, as we say in the streets, put those two-faced individuals, such as Mayor Richards, Loretta Scott and Dana Miller on blast! I would have asked them, and I would have asked the crowd: Where were they when Lawrence Rogers, a mentally ill African-American father was beaten to death in a Wegmans parking lot by R.P.D. officer Thomas Rodriguez? Where were all of them when Craig Heard's brains were blown out by not one, but two trigger happy R.P.D. cops?

Perhaps, it was best that Adam didn't give me that bullhorn, after all I kept reminding myself that the rally was for Trayvon, but I just can't stand hypocrites, politicians and snakes. I can't stand how people in this city have no backbone, and how it takes a tragedy like Trayvon's to get this kind of turnout, when, with all respect to Trayvon, we have had people younger than him, who looked just like him, executed by the R.P.D. For example, as I mentioned earlier, Craig Heard, a 14 year old, scared, unarmed African-American young man, cornered by the R.P.D. in a dead end street, shot twice in the head and executed by Rochester Police officers Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham. There were no large crowds marching down East Main Street for Craig Heard. There were no City officials holding bullhorns denouncing his murder. And there was definitely no Mayor Johnson (Rochester's Mayor at the time) speaking out. Well, actually Mayor Johnson did speak. As Craig Heard's body still lay slumped over the steering wheel of the car he was driving, Mayor Johnson called his execution by the R.P.D. justified!

As I stood with my two boys in front of the Federal building, I was disgusted when Adam McFadden handed the bullhorn to Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards who told the crowd "What happened to Trayvon can happen here in Rochester." It has happened here in Rochester, Mayor Richards! It has happened to countless innocent, unarmed African-Americans, murdered by YOUR police department. Murdered by white, trigger happy, overzealous R.P.D. officers, not much different than George Zimmerman.

After the march, I reached out to Adam McFadden, to express to him my disappointment and disgust in the hypocrisy of the Mayor and the other officials I mentioned earlier, as well as the fact that Rochesterians should be ashamed of themselves for not denouncing the countless unjustified murders of our own Trayvon Martins right here in the ROC. I was shocked by his response. On Adam's facebook page, he posted a comment saying "so called leaders" were "hating". I replied by posting this comment. " My point is that It's sad that it takes the senseless killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, more than 1,200 miles and 7 states away, for Rochesterians to unite and denounce this injustice." Adam replied "Davy you sipping on that hater aid... Kill that noise."

Then, on top of that, Gloria Winston, who also writes for Minority Reporter, calls me out on facebook as well! She went off on one of her usual "rants and raves" also calling me a "hater", and even going as far as stating "You obviously think you are a leader, so let me ask who is following you? Tom Richards, Loretta Scott, Dana Miller and Adam McFadden don't hide behind their WORDS, they are ACTION oriented!! I RESPECT that!!".

Gloria Winston obviously doesn't know me. I don't hide behind my words. As Howard Eagle stated "All due respect goes out to Davy V. and many others who have been on the front lines of struggle for decades". Ms. Winston if you don't know of me and my work, then I suggest you do like Ice Cube said and "Google me ..." I have made 2 films exposing the corrupt Rochester Police Department. I was arrested and jailed for exposing a murderer, Rochester Police Officer Thomas Rodriguez, who beat Lawrence Rogers in that Wegmans parking lot, then filed harassment charges against me because I exposed him in my film "R.P.D.: Badges of DISHONOR, CORRUPTION and MURDER!" Avery True Blackman, whom I have the utmost respect for, sent me this powerful and telling message, supporting me "Davy, you represent truth! Thus, those that are exposed by it become irritable. Onward you must flow and do not spend energy on black hypocrites... "SPEAK THAT TRUTH!" Mr. Blackman's words speak for themselves.

Wow. I've seen it all. What a couple of days! First, me and my children get to be a part of a beautiful movement, which has spread throughout the country, demanding justice for an innocent young man, murdered by some wannabe cop wacko, then I'm disrespected in my own hometown, by Adam McFadden, whom I have known since high school, when he had a Kid and Play hi top fade, and whom I have always supported and voted for. And then, Gloria Winston, who happens to write for this same publication, whom I have never seen at any rally denouncing the R.P.D.'s countless executions of innocent African-Americans right here in our city. Not in Sanford, Florida, right here in Rochester. And who, just as our Councilman, Adam McFadden did, she praises our white Mayor Thomas Richards, who didn't even march in the rally. Thomas Richards, who, as I pointed out earlier, is deploying more rogue R.P.D. cops downtown, for what he says is, "to improve quality of life downtown" which basically translates into "to continue to harass and abuse young African-American and Latino youths". Thomas Richards, who could care less when an innocent minority is killed by the R.P.D.

Wake up Rochester. It's getting hot out, and the snakes are in the grass.

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