Tucked away in a remote corner of downtown, facing the back side of the Geva Theatre and surrounded on all sides by parking lots, stands this unassuming brick house. In downtown Rochester there are several lonely buildings like this one, still hanging on long after its neighbors have all been read their last rites.
I admire old little structures like this. Maybe it doesn’t have a glamourous story to tell. But it’s stuck it out for the last 150+ years – from Rochester’s boom, all the way through the toughest times this rusty city could throw at it. Whenever I’ve visited Geva Theatre I’ve taken notice of this one and wondered if it would find new life…
On the morning of January 6, 2015, Sister Grace Miller of House of Mercy, Tom Malthaner of St. Joseph's House of Hospitality, and Ryan Acuff of House of Mercy, stood before City Court Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse asking him to dismiss their trespassing charges in the furtherance of justice.
Nearly 80 supporters flooded the court. The judge ordered the doors to the court open so that people in the hallway could listen in as every seat in the courtroom was filled.
“We have a higher authority. And our authority tells us—go on—continue the fight for the homeless and we will continue to do that,” said Sister Grace after court to gathered supporters. “We're doing it with your support. And your support means so much to us. We can't thank you enough for being here.”
According to motion papers released by Sister Grace, Mr. Malthaner, and Mr. Acuff, represented by Edward Hourihan of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, “[The p]rosecution of the defendants would result in a supreme injustice. An examination of these factors [ten factors that must be met in order for the judge to consider dismissing the charges] as applied to Sister Grace, Malthaner, and Acuff shows that prosecution of these individuals would do nothing more than punish these advocates for those in the community who are the neediest and whose voices are not heard.” The document continued, “Moreover, prosecution of them would fail to address the real victims here—the homeless who were kicked out of the Civic Center Garage and literally forced out into the cold.”
“Homelessness is not an intractable problem in Rochester,” said Mr. Acuff to those gathered. “We can solve it but we need to keep going; whatever our barriers we need to get around them and as long as we're in this together, we can solve it.”
Sister Grace Miller, Tom Malthaner, and Ryan Acuff address supporters after court
Benny Warr attacked by police On May 1, 2013, Benny Warr, a disabled, African American man, was waiting for a bus at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Bartlett Street in his motorized wheelchair. As he waited, a Rochester Police Department (RPD) cruiser rolled up and officers got out and started telling people to move on.
According to an interview conducted on local radio station 96.5FM WCMF, former Chief of Police James Sheppard said that the officers were tasked with “clearing the block” because the RPD works “very closely with the Jefferson Avenue Business Association.” However, while people were outside enjoying a nice evening and inadvertently exercising their Constitutional rights, the police acted on the alleged agitation of the business association. According to the chief, “what they [the businesses on Jefferson Ave.] don't want is when you have these clusters of people that are hanging out and selling dope—it kills business.” The RPD apparently took orders from the business association that made it criminal to be on the sidewalks congregating—even though, according to James Muhammad of the Jefferson Avenue Business Association at a community rally in support of Mr. Warr on May 18, 2013, “We did not give the police the task to do what they did.”
According to the chief, “what they [the businesses on Jefferson Ave.] don't want is when you have these clusters of people that hanging out and selling dope—it kills business.”
Former Chief of Police James Sheppard on 96.5FM WCMF
Arrest reports from Rochester Police Department officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II. Also included, in an internal document about officer Liberatore's use of an "untrained technique": his elbow hit to Mr. Warr's head.
Here is the Civilian Review Board legislation currently used in the City of Rochester passed in October of 1992 and brought to Council by City Councilmember-at-Large Wade S. Norwood. More than 22 years after the legislation was implemented, Mr. Norwood had no comment when asked how effective he thought he legislation was.
Attorney Charles F. Burkwit, representing Benny Warr, logged the video from the City of Rochester blue light camera surveillance footage of officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II brutalizing and arresting Benny Warr. See the log by clicking the .pdf link.
In the above .pdf, Attorney Charles F. Burkwit, representing Mr. Benny Warr, blasts the concluded investigation conducted by the Professional Standards Section of the Rochester Police Department into the brutality suffered by Mr. Warr at the hands of officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II on May 1, 2013.
The above .pdf is the concluding summary from Professional Standards Section of the Rochester Police Department's internal investigation of--from their perspective--the "alleged" attack on Benny Warr by officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II.
Affidavits from La'Shanda Flowers, Tache Young, and Derrick Latham regarding what they saw when Benny Warr was attacked by Rochester Police Department officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II on May 1, 2013.
This .pdf contains relevant parts of a Professional Standards Section (internal investigations) of the Rochester Police Department stenographic interview with Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore with regards to the investigation looking at the allegation against officers of force/procedure in the case of Benny Warr. It is dated June 10, 2013.
This .pdf contains relevant parts of a Professional Standards Section (internal investigations) of the Rochester Police Department stenographic interview with Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno with regards to the investigation looking at the allegation against officers of force/procedure in the case of Benny Warr. It is dated June 13, 2013.
The quote below (according to the incident summary provided by Attorney Charles F. Burkwit, representing Benny Warr) explains the aerial photographs in the .pdf file above of the area where Benny Warr was assaulted by Rochester Police Department officers Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II, Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II.
This .pdf contains relevant parts of a Professional Standards Section (internal investigations) of the Rochester Police Department stenographic interview with Sgt. Mitchell "Big Face" R. Stewart II with regards to the investigation looking at the allegation against officers of force/procedure in the case of Benny Warr. It is dated June 20, 2013.
A .pdf of officer Joseph “Joey” M. Ferrigno II's RPD supporting deposition with regards to the internal investigation conducted in the case of Benny Warr. Three allegations against officers Ferrigno, officer Anthony “Rock” R. Liberatore, and Sergeant Mitchell “Big Face” R. Stewart II included one for unlawful arrest, one for excessive use of force, and one for discourtesy.
My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.
I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
Submitted by House of Mercy / Sister Grace Miller (video: Jenny Brongo) on Sat, 2014-12-27 11:59
DEC. 23, 2014 Rochester, NY - The House of Mercy is thrilled to announce that, thanks to hundreds of caring people through the Rochester region and beyond, our “Home for the Holidays” campaign has successfully reached its goal, and the House of Mercy will move forward immediately to purchase a new house to shelter the homeless.
Sister Grace making the announcement! (Video provided by Jenny Brongo)
On Saturday, December 20, 2014 -- just five days before Christmas -- the City of Rochester, NY used large machinery to destroy Sanctuary Village, a homeless tent camp created within the city’s limits. Lacking support from any city or county resources, the House of Mercy launched an emergency GoFundMe fundraising campaign, “A Home for the Holidays”, with the goal of raising $60K to purchase a shelter house within the Rochester city limits. Two days later, on December 23, 2014, donations from the GoFundMe and from private independent donors reached the goal, allowing the House of Mercy to begin immediate planning for the new shelter space.
The tragic death of Mike Brown, the subsequent response by protesters in Ferguson, and finally the Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson has brought national attention to some vital issues plaguing the country: police brutality and lack of police accountability. These issues affect everyone but disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including people of color, immigrants, the deaf community, the LBGT community, and others. Rochester is certainly no exception. In the past year there have been numerous incidents of police brutality, many in which the officers have not been brought to justice.
On November 28, 2014, Macnore “Damico” Cameron was in Ferguson, MO recording video of riot police at the Ferguson police department around 10:30pm. Shortly after, the riot police stormed the demonstrators and Cameron was arrested.
Cameron from Rochester, NY, and his partner Morgan Dunbar from Buffalo, NY, were in Ferguson to stand up against police violence and demand revolutionary change.
Rochester Indymedia interviewed Cameron and Dunbar regarding Cameron's arrest in Ferguson, MO on December 1, 2014.
Submitted by SusanGalloway on Sun, 2014-12-21 15:30
On December 20, 2014, the City of Rochester bulldozed Sanctuary City, a homeless encampment, disposing of inhabitants belongings including ID's, social service cards and Social Security cards. Without proper ID, these citizens can not access services that they might need. Sister Grace, homeless activist and advocate from House of Mercy, speaks about the incident and the situation it has created.