A group of protestors say police used aggressive physical force and “chemical weapons” to break up a march, even though, they say, the officers hadn’t asked anyone to disperse.
An informal group of protestors - not an Occupy Rochester contingent, as police and some media erroneously reported - held an anti-capitalism march Saturday. The procession went through much of the Park Avenue area and the east side of downtown, although police began arresting people near Union Street and East Avenue. In total, 18 people were arrested and charged, several of whom were not from Rochester.
Lynn Giglio, who spoke during a press conference this morning, said she was arrested as she was leaving the group. She and other protestors said that police had escorted them through most of the march, but at Union officers had lined up holding batons and shaking canisters of pepper spray.
“It felt like we were attacked,” Giglio said.
Other protestors said they were tackled, and some said they were either pepper sprayed or exposed to airborne pepper spray.
The Rochester Police Department says it will provide a response to the allegations later today. In a release sent out over the weekend, a department spokesperson said protestors were blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic on East Avenue near the Inner Loop.
“The protestors refused to disperse and were arrested for disorderly conduct,” the release says.
Giglio said that the RPD’s behavior follows similar repressive tactics the RPD has used in the past. Specifically, she cited a 2009 anti-war protest that ended in several arrests and injuries; two people had to go to the hospital.
She also pushed for changes civilian review process of police complaints, including a civilian review board with subpoena power.