Rochester Police say they will review how officers handled an anti-war protest in downtown Rochester Wednesday.
A video shows police officers becoming aggressive with some of the protestors.
Rochester police arrested 12 people Wednesday night, following the anti-war demonstration, charging them with unlawful assembly. Police also charged four with resisting arrest, and one with obstructing governmental administration for allegedly hitting an officer with a drum.
They said a group of about 100 people marched west on Main Street towards Clinton Avenue and that an officer tried to stop the crowd as a firetruck tried to pass.
Officers then tried to move the demonstrators up onto the sidewalk, when the situation escalated. About 40 officers were sent to the scene.
“It wasn't so much an escalation as it was an attack really,” said Crescenzo Scipione, who was ticketed for unlawful assembly, resisting arrest and loitering. “It was a peaceful protest until the police arrived, at which point it became chaotic and violent.”
Deputy Chief George Markert said the Rochester Police Department will look into the response by officers.
“The one thing we have to remember is the right of one person to exercise their first amendment right doesn't outweigh another person's right to travel freely in the city and to have emergency services respond,” said Markert. “So we have to balance those things constantly.”
Police were called downtown Wednesday afternoon, when about 100 protestors marched down the middle of Main Street. Markert says at one point, the protestors blocked a fire truck trying to get to a call.
City Council Reviews Protest Video
Rochester City Council got a chance to weigh in on how police handled this protest during a regularly scheduled committee meeting Thursday evening.
Rochester Police Deputy Chief George Markert was peppered with questions by Rochester City Council about why his department used what some are calling excessive force to break up Wednesday’s protest.
Before that happened, city council members got to see some of what happened firsthand.
Video shot by the protestors was shown in council chambers during the meeting. Council members asked Markert about everything from protocol to the number of police on-scene to the number of arrests made.
Markert assured the council that an internal review of the situation is underway and asked the council not to jump to conclusions based on the video alone.
Councilwoman Carolee Conklin took part in political protests herself in the 60s and said she is determined to get to the bottom of what really happened.
“So we’d encourage any young people part of the protest movement yesterday that wish to file a complaint with the civilian review board that they should do that. Then I’m waiting to hear the police response to when they complete their evaluation and investigation,” Conklin said.
“I didn’t see fighting or disorderly stuff. What I saw was a group marching with a drum stating their opinion on the war and some other stuff. And then what I saw later was the police trying to get folks on the sidewalk or to stop. And what I think at that point was that folks should have listened to what the police told them to do, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t peaceful. I think the intent of the march was peaceful,” said Councilman Adam McFadden.
Markert said he is trying to put this video into context and to remind people that it is edited. He said he is interested in what happened before the protestors’ video cameras were rolling, which is why the police department is conducting its own investigation.
Anti-war protest video
Watch the video above to see clips of Wednesday night's anti-war protest.