Protesters Clash With Police After Shutting Down Stretch of I-490
Rochester, NY – A group promising to shut down a stretch of Interstate 490 in downtown Rochester on Sunday made good on that promise.
A protest planned by Save Rochester/Black Lives Matter (BLM) began its “Defund the Police” demonstration at MLK Park on Sunday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m. EDT.
Numerous local news outlets estimated the number of protesters to be over 100.
Rochester police blocked off multiple roadways to ensure safe passage for the group that then marched through the streets of downtown Rochester.
They were briefly confronted by a small group of counter demonstrators who were there in support of law enforcement.
— Wendy Wright (@WendyWrightTV) July 19, 2020
After a tense few moments, the protesters continued to the interstate and entered onto I-490 eastbound at approximately 3:30 p.m.
It was there the New York State Police (NYSP) was waiting having blocked all lanes in both directions as well as on/off ramps.
The BLM group proudly announced on its Facebook page last week it would “SHUT IT DOWN,” which police say gave them the notice they needed to make sure traffic would be blocked and diverted for the event.
“We want to ensure the safety of not only the organization but also of commuters on 490,” Cmdr. Fabian Rivera of the Rochester Police Department (RPD) told a group of assembled media on Friday. “We’ve seen vehicles drive into crowds. We want to make sure we block these streets off and we want to make sure the community understands to be patient.”
Protesters then marched along I-490 and across the Frederick Douglass/Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge while chanting “Who shut sh-t down? We shut sh-t down!” and “No justice! No peace! F-ck the police!”
According to its Facebook post, the group says they are using a highway shutdown as a tactic because “it has really been an impactful way to protest and bring awareness to BLM issues.”
The BLM group has been calling for the release of inmates with “nonviolent misdemeanors,” and is upset because the RPD has so far “refused to have a simple conversation” about it.
After crossing the Frederick Douglass/Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge a contingent of police blocked protesters from continuing.
Protesters verbally assaulted the officers and chanted “Quit your job! Quit your job!” before they then turned around and began walking back.
— Ben Densieski (@BenDensieski) July 19, 2020
In response to being diverted, one of the protest organizers while using a microphone told the group, “These are our streets. They don’t want us to keep going down 490, but next time we will not put it on Facebook.”
The group had indicated its intent to keep I-490 shut down until its demands were heard.
However, the protesters walked off I-490 at approximately 4:30 p.m. and concluded the demonstration.
No one was injured and no arrests were made.
Officials reopened the interstate shortly thereafter and traffic is once again flowing as normal.
Highway protests continue to be staged in cities across America.
Many in the trucking community have expressed frustration that local and state law enforcement officials have not done more to prevent protesters from blocking roadways and interfering with interstate commerce.
Last week, a Minnesota state lawmaker sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr urging them to take action on this issue.
Rep. Cal Bahr is asking for federal highway funds to be withheld from cities in which local law enforcement does not act to curb such demonstrations.
Click HERE to read more of what Rep. Bahr has to say.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow this issue and bring you the latest developments.
Photo courtesy of Twitter/@GeofferyRogers