Sunday, March 4, 2012

Occupy Rochester: What A Waste


As a filmmaker and writer, I am very passionate about my work exposing issues such as police brutality and misconduct. However, when it comes to me supporting a movement or a cause, I really need to believe in it before jumping on board. Maybe it's because my experiences have shaped and molded me into being a little skeptic about people's intentions and motivations when it comes to a specific cause or a movement.

I've always had a great deal of respect for Rochester Indymedia, Rochester's independent media outlet, offering an alternative to mainstream media. Indymedia covers a wide range of issues, in a real, raw and accurate way not seen in today's sensationalistic corporate- run media.

In 2004, when I was arrested and charged with harassing Rochester Police officer Thomas Rodriguez, after I featured a video clip of him in my film "R.P.D.: Badges of Dishonor, Corruption and Murder!" beating Lawrence Rogers, a mentally ill African-American father to death in a Wegmans parking lot, Rochester Indymedia was there to support me. Which is why, a few months back when Dawn Zuppelli of Rochester Indymedia asked me to come speak at the Occupy Rochester camp, I obliged.

Once there, I realized that everyone seemed to have their own agenda. I was met with a cold response and I left with a strong feeling that Occupy members had no clear plan of action or direction. Even still, I supported the movement.

When Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards ordered Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard and his rogue cops to arrest innocent, peaceful Occupy protesters, I wrote a piece titled: "Don't Let Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards Fool You... He is The 1 Percent." In that piece I blasted the Mayor, R.P.D. Chief Sheppard and City Government for wasting taxpayer's money by selectively targeting and arresting non-violent protesters at Washington Square Park, while doing nothing about drug dealers openly selling drugs in other City parks.

When R.I.T. student Jonathan Foster was arrested while covering the arrests of Occupy Rochester protesters for his school magazine, I was disgusted that despite there being countless members of the local media at Washington Square Park that night, Foster was the only one singled out and arrested by the R.P.D., even though he wore a T-shirt with the word "REPORTER" printed on the front, clearly identifying himself as press.

As someone who knows all too well how vindictive City of Rochester officials can be, having been arrested for exposing the corrupt Rochester Police department, and who has documented the R.P.D.'s well known retaliatory tactics against innocent citizens, I wrote a letter to newly-elected Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley denouncing Foster's arrest and asking that the charges against him be dismissed. Eventually Rochester City Court Judge Theresa Johnson dismissed the charges against Foster as well as all Occupy Rochester protesters.

When I first heard of "Occupy Rochester" I thought "Wow! What a great movement, what great potential! To have hundreds of people every morning march to financial institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo and rally outside, putting pressure on these companies." Now that would have been great, if it would have actually happened. But it didn't. And I'm not talking about a couple of small rallies. I mean daily, concentrated, effective rallies and protests sending a clear, strong and direct message to these greedy corporate institutions who have received millions upon millions in Government bailouts, only to turn around and evict innocent families from their homes while simultaneously paying their CEO's millions of dollars in bonuses.

Instead, Occupy Rochester set up tents, had their charges dismissed, and did absolutely nothing, except occupy a park. I have to admit, I never really understood the whole point of staying in the park overnight anyways. I mean instead of wasting their time and energy on fighting to sleep in a park, Occupy Rochester would have been so much more effective applying that energy during the day! After all, wasn't one of the main objectives of the whole Occupy movement to be visible? Who is visible at night? People sleep at night.

And then it hit me. I had been duped. And so had everyone else who had come to find themselves rooting for this movement called "Occupy". Everyone, including myself who thought it was about time that citizens stood up to these corporations, and to the Government for allowing the disgusting disparity that exists in this country between the "haves" and the "have nots".

When I drive through downtown Rochester and see all the tents and cardboard signs at the Occupy Rochester camp in Washington Square Park, I can't help but shake my head in disappointment, and think "What a waste." What a waste of potential and opportunity.

Simply put, Occupy Rochester failed. It could have been and should have been so much more. What was supposed to be the "99%" standing up to the "1%", ended up being a bunch of misdirected, unorganized people fighting to sleep in a city park, and being arrested. Even after managing to get the Mayor to give in to public opinion and pressure and grant them all day access to the park, they dropped the ball!

"Occupy Rochester" became "Occupy Washington Square Park". Instead of holding "sit-ins", in front of financial institutions and establishments, Occupy Rochester protesters "sat in" their tents.

Take care,

Davy V.


  1. HiDavy,
    Many of us didn't sleep at the park, some of us did. We come from all walks of life and have been involved in many actions with Occupy, and will be involved with many more. You're condemning us, a movement that is still strong, but made up of humans. You feel duped? I came to hear you speak at Occupy Rochester. We were Supposed to have been on the same page. You tell me who feels duped!

    1. Sarah; I write an op/ed piece. And it's just that, my opinion. As far as me coming and speaking, I don't know why you would feel "duped", I mean I came and spoke, and even printed out literature which I gave out along with DVD's of my work, exposing the corrupt Rochester Police. Like I write in my piece, I was received with a cold response. Perhaps you and maybe a couple other people were interested but the overall feeling and vibe was one of disinterest and an arrogant attitude. I thought it was very rude, and I walked away with a strong feeling of people not only not appreciating my time, but also not having any clear direction. It seemed as if everyone had their own agenda. Pergaps more inportantly Sarah, I assure you I am not alone in my opinion of Occupy Rochester. In fact, some people from within Occupy have told me they have come to feel the same.

  2. Davy,
    Your comments suggest that you are not aware of everything Occupy Rochester has been trying to do -- and has done -- over the past few months -- and in the middle of winter, no less. No matter how mild it has seemed, we've had to contend with winter weather. It's put a chill on activity, but we have still managed to carry on with a lot of our work. It seems like you haven't talked with anyone who has been actively involved with the local movement. If you had, I don't think you would have been so quick to condemn us. I don't know your work well, but I've seen some of what you do, and I've appreciated it. I'm disappointed in what you've written about Occupy Rochester here.

    1. Shirley; I don't know why you would feel "disappointed with what I wrote. I write an op/ed piece, that's just what it is, my opinion. Perhaps, you should dig deeper to find out why you feel "disappointed" in my opinion of Occupy Rochester. Perhaps you would fined that your "disappointment" at me is misdirceted and is actually intended for the Occupy Rochester movement! Like I wrote to Sarah in response to her comment, I have spoken with Occupy Rochester members who have shared with me their disappointments in the movement itself! I have heard about the bickering, the arguing, the different agendas. As far as your comment about appreciating my work, I thank you. Like I say in my piece, I am very passionate about my work, and I want you to know I really believed in Occupy Rochester. Not only was I met with a cold response when I went to speak at the camp, but I was also treated coldly when I tried to give some advise as to what Occipy should have done differently.