Written December 4, 2013     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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Last Wednesday morning, a group of Edison Tech basketball players stood in front of S & S Grocery on Main Street near the intersection with Clinton Avenue.

They were waiting for a bus to take them to a scrimmage.

Though the sidewalk in this area is some 20-feet wide, the young men stood clustered in such a way that they blocked both free passage of the sidewalk and the entrance to the store.

The store owner came out and asked them to move, so that customers could get through.

The boys refused.

An employee of the store came out and asked the young men to move, so that customers could get through.

The boys refused.

Posted nearby was a Rochester police officer, controlling the intersection and as part of the department’s intensified focus on a stretch of Main Street plagued by disruptive behavior and violence associated with teens waiting for buses.

The police officer observed for some several minutes – between five and 10 – that pedestrians were having to walk around the boys, who were blocking the sidewalk, and that they were standing directly in the entranceway to S & S Grocery.

The police officer yelled over at the basketball players and asked them to move. One of the boys said something that was unintelligible to the officer, but they did not move.

Ultimately, the officer was able to leave his post and come over to the Edison Tech players and ask them to move out of the center of the sidewalk and out of the entrance to the store.

They refused.

A policeman asked the high school boys to step out of the center of the sidewalk and to move away from the entrance of the grocery store.

And they said no.

Why? What possible harm could be done by moving a few feet one direction or the other? If they were waiting for a bus, why couldn’t they stand closer to curbside, where other bus passengers wait? Why the insolence and anger?

For whatever reason, the basketball players refused to comply with the requests of the store owner, the store employee or the police officer.

The team coach, a school district employee, was there. He did not direct the boys to move.

The players, for their part, said they were waiting for a bus and weren’t going to move.

Seeking to verify that statement, the Rochester Police Department contacted the Edison Tech athletic director and he verified that they were waiting for a bus.

A bus he said they were to meet at 9 a.m. at the corner of Main Street and South Avenue.

That is two blocks away from where they were standing.

The Rochester Police Department also contacted the school district’s director of transportation. The director of transportation said the bus was to pick the boys up at Main Street and St. Paul Street.

That is one block away from where they were standing.

The basketball coach on scene told police that he knew the boys were not waiting in the right location for the bus.

Instead of waiting at either of the two locations the bus was expected at, the boys were waiting at Main and Clinton, an area of historic difficulty, and they were standing in such a fashion as to block the sidewalk and obstruct the door of a business.

And they repeatedly and insistantly refused to move.

So the officer – Officer Rodriguez, badge No. 567 – called in a sergeant.

Who called in a lieutenant.

It was two command officers, Officer Rodriguez, and two nearby officers who also responded. And a group of high school boys who wouldn’t move a few feet out of the way.

So the decision was made to cite them.

Three of the athletes were charged with disorderly conduct.

And then the crap hit the fan.

On Facebook and with the help of the evening news, activist City Councilman Adam McFadden declared the episode an example of an “open season” on black youth. He called the officers involved “idiots” and demanded a “public apology” from the chief.

Across the community and across the country the matter was angrily depicted as an example of racist cops targeting black youth because they are black.

Even though on any given day several hundred black youth happily use that very stretch of Main Street completely undisturbed by the several police officers who patrol the area.

What brought these young men to the attention of the police was their conduct, not their color.

But that’s not how this is being spun.

All of a sudden, the paradigm is that the officer involved, his department, his chief and the city they serve are a bunch of racist brutes and that the Rochester Police Department is at war with “the community.”

Monday evening on the TV news, the police chief – a black man – said the officer was justified and the young men had done wrong.

Tuesday morning in a terse text, the district attorney – a white woman – said the charges would be dismissed.

And the Edison Tech basketball team, with its coach, played for the CNN cameras.

And speaking of cameras, there was one that captured this entire incident. Its recording was downloaded on a disc.

That disc was given to the property clerk.

Which side of this story do you think it supports?

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2013

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