Rochester Indymedia's Ted Forsyth spoke with Ursula Rozum of the Syracuse Peace Council about the New York Tactical Officers Association's "SWAT Conference" happening in Syracuse, NY, April 26 - 28 and what is being done to stop it.
Here's the press release from the Syracuse Peace Council and the War Resisters League:
This coming Wednesday the 27th, the Clarion Project's Ryan Mauro - designated as an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his anti-Islam views - will be addressing attendees of the New York Tactical Officers Association Conference. Attendees will include police officers from from across NY state, including the NYPD and the Syracuse PD, as well as officers from around the country: LA, Colorado, and Ohio.This has caused alarm among advocacy groups such has the Council on American Islamic Relations which called this past Thursday for police departments to probe Mauro's upcoming training.It has also led local media in Syracuse, as well as other websites, to question both Mauro and the Larry Beresnoy, Executive Director of the New York Tactical Officers Association which puts on the conference. This has only led to defenses of Clarion by Beresnoy, who will not allow media to attend the conference, and will not disclose the full list of attendees, nor its funding sources.Mauro promotes the surveillance and profiling of Muslim Americans, often propagates the myth that there are Muslim 'no-go' zones across the US., attempts to link CAIR and other groups to terrorist activity, and has even argued that Islamists have infiltrated the Republican Party. The organization for which he works, The Clarion Project, was at the center of controversy for supplying the NYPD with anti-Islam films such as The Third Jihad, that then police chief Ray Kelly apologized for showing to his department.NYTOAC also features several major weapons manufactures at their expo including Northrup Grumman - the 5th largest arms dealer in the world, amidst ongoing concern regarding the militarization of the police, including the NYPD.Finally, at at least one of NYTOAC's workshops will promote the idea that SWAT Teams are the ideal entity to engage people having mental health crises, though a third or more of people killed by the police have such a disability. According to the ACLU there are more than 100 SWAT raids a day in the US, the great majority of which impact Black and Latino neighborhoods. (See this video of SWAT testimony.)The many US conferences like NYTOAC, such as the controversial Urban Shield in the Bay Area (see recent Guardian coverage), are often funded directly by the Department of Homeland security through the Urban Areas Security Initiative.A cross-community effort, including Black Lives Matter Upstate, the Syracuse Peace Council and the Arab American Association of New York, to oppose this conference which produces such harmful effects in so many communities, promotes militarized mentalities among the police, and dovetails disturbingly with the rising culture of fear in the US and worldwide. WRL's petition calling for its cancellation has reached nearly 2,000 singers.Endorsing organizations:AF3IRM NYC * Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) * Black Lives Matter Upstate NY * Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI) * CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities * Civilian Soldier Alliance * Equality for Flatbush * The Icarus Project * Iraq Veterans Against the War * Jewish Voice for Peace - National * Jewish Voice for Peace - Westchester * Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice * Muslim American Women's Policy Forum * New Yorkers Against Bratton * Organization for a Free Society (OFS) * Palestine Solidarity Collective * Raha - Iranian Feminist Collective * Stop LAPD Spying * Syracuse Peace Council * Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP)To add your organization, contact stopNYTOAC@gmail.com
Another forceful and violent use of Rochester's SWAT team was the unjust eviction of Catherine Lennon-Griffin over a fraudulent eviction order pursued in the courts by Fannie Mae. The bank, that had taken $90 billion in taxpayer bailout money through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), refused to negotiate with Ms. Lennon-Griffin after her husband died suddenly of brain and lung cancer.
The SWAT team arrived early on the morning of March 28, 2011 and removed her from the home, dispersing 11 of her family members, including seven grandchildren, and landing her in a motel. Around two dozen police remained as bank-contracted workers boarded up her home and removed her belongings. In the middle of this, five people committed civil disobedience and were arrested as they attempted to block the doorway to the home. Two others were arrested for failure to move, one being a 70 year-old neighbor in her pajamas. Local mainstream media got coverage of the arrests as did Rochester Indymedia. Four years later, Ms. Lennon-Griffin got her home back free and clear, after squatting her own home shortly after being evicted, while fighting to have a new day in court. Ms. Lennon-Griffin's story went viral and was picked up nationally. Former Obama Administration official Van Jones called her a “modern day Rosa Parks."
On the War Resisters League petition site, part of their statement reads:
Over the past several years regular, militarized attacks on Ferguson and Baltimore’s Black communities have gained increased attention--but they are not new and they are not stopping. Police repression continues to grow across the U.S. and globally through coordinated efforts to militarize policing tactics and weapons. As our communities increasingly lack basic infrastructure, local police departments are now directly funded and trained by the Department of Homeland Security and many receive military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense. Now in its 10th year, The New York Tactical Officers Association Conference (NYTOAC) is a two day training conference taking place this April 26th to 28th with participating agencies from across NY state and the country, from Buffalo to Brooklyn, Colorado to Ohio and beyond. NYTOAC plays on a growing culture of fear and hate by featuring as its keynote speaker Ryan Mauro with Clarion Project, which defends the profiling and surveillance of Muslim-Americans, absurdly attempts to link advocacy groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) with terrorist activity, and has provided the NYPD with its notoriously Islamophobic “training” film The Third Jihad which drew such outrage in 2012.
As part of the growing movement against militarization in cities everywhere, activists across New York state are continuing our fight by calling on decision-makers to reject NYTOAC for good!
The War Resisters League also released a video exposing these #SWATstories and the militarization of police:
#SWATstories from the War Resisters League
In Kristian Williams' Our Enemies In Blue: Police and Power in America, he offers the equation "Community Policing + Militarization = Counterinsurgency," which is to imply that the militarization of police (a jargon term) works in tandem with another jargon term, community policing, in order to not only repress disorder, but to actually prevent it from occurring in the first place. This, according to Williams, is counterinsurgency (from page 358):
Understood in terms of counterinsurgency, community policing represents [a] strategy for establishing and maintaining police control over the community--an approach enhanced by the insights of military experiences in restless colonies. Organizationally, militarization provides the model by which the police can work in teams, enhance officer discretion, and maintain tight command and control; community policing efforts, meanwhile, create the infrastructure for intelligence gathering and co-optation. Strategically, community policing strives toward directed, proactive action, with a geographic focus and attention to the causes of disorder; military planning gives a central role to intelligence work and takes an aggressive approach to confronting the enemy. Hence, military tactics are used to clear and hold contested areas, while community policing programs seek to build partnerships that bring the police legitimacy, information, and access to community resources. Ideologically, community policing serves to legitimize military-type efforts, while the rhetoric of a 'war on crime' can be used to mobilize the community to aid the police. And of course, the threats of a militarized 'Bad Cop' encourage cooperation with the 'Good Cop's' community policing projects.
It's a lot to take in but makes a lot of sense in terms of a coordinated effort at counterinsurgency. The dual efforts of community policing (in all its vagueness) and militarization of police (with all that that phrase connotes) are both locations of resistance and confrontation within our communities. It is vital that we not lose sight of these efforts and only focus on the grandeur and fearsomeness of high powered weapons, uniforms, and military vehicles, controlled by our local police departments.
Ms. Rozum did say that these SWAT conferences would be in New York for the next four years and that a growing, state-wide movement is coming together to force officials to cancel the remaining conferences. It's time to demilitarize our police and hold them accountable for the crimes they've committed.
Enough Is Enough!
Related: Military Academy Report a Sham | Islamophobia: The New Racism | McGriff family evicted; two arrested | #SayHerName #JusticeForIndia | Joey Lipari on Syracuse's Citizen Review Board | Cornel West's "Connecting the dots: Poverty, Racism, & Drones" | Suspended Justice: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline | BYP100/We Charge Genocide activist Jason Ware shares his experiences | From the Vault! Rochester Indymedia digs for content from the past | New venue found for Palestinian rights speaker after divinity school rescinds invite | Remove the cloak of secrecy! Police transparency now! | "Youth Organizing Against War" a workshop at the Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire convergence | Civil Resistance, What is it? and why do we do it?--a workshop
True subversions require a model that is nourished not by capitalist reward but by an effective shock sounded out from the artist, through an observing (group of) human, and back into artist. A moment thus created is pure moment of potential change.
Bloody Noes: Pope It Up
Subversive efforts necessarily require that familiar or educational slogans are abandoned. Familiar elements are crucial for an initial level of acceptance or recognition by viewer/absorber/audience, but must undergo a serious level of deconstruction and/or uncomfortable recombination with potentially dissonant elements. Messages must be condensed into a form streamlined into essential nugget[s], delivered perhaps with an additional (non)emotional (ritual) twist, a new and further dissonance.
Follow the leaders
To witness the combination of these complex elements creates (locates) a space in the body of the viewer.
We are seeking to disrupt the harmonies and repeated thoughtforms in every viewer through a thoroughly textured absurdity tied to a firm and secret certainty. For us to speak our own private certainties would dissolve the opportunity for any truth to be recognized by a viewer, plugging the possibility with pedantry.
Frankenstein Revival--The Rise Of Uterus Face!
Every human contains this possibility, that is the faith, and whether it has been exhaustively proven or not, well, the experiment waged is worth it every time. The idea is that every human needs to be rescued from a particular destructive mania that is thoroughly dictated in every aspect of Social Structure, but that no man can be fully rescued by the adoption of another man's slogans. A man must recognize his own slogan, whatever that is, common to humanity or self-specific, and it is toward the progression of this aim that the subversive artist excels.
Joey Flowers responded to WXXI reporter Veronica Volk's story Report Finds Rochester Community Favors Potential Military Academy.
What a bunch of malarkey. Having read the actual "report", I can say, without a doubt, that its conclusion was determined before the committee was even formed and comes directly from the desires of Van White, Todd Baxter, and other interested parties.
Nearly half of the committee was comprised of those with military, police, fire department background. Of the ten "key community leaders" who were interviewed, one was Klein Steel (educating children is a lot like selling steel after all), another was the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, then there was the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Instructors, as well as the Leadership Academy for Young Men, which just happens to have a JROTC component.
Got all the military and sympathetic business leaders in, but "Time and scheduling constraints prevented the Committee Co-Chairs from interviewing the RCSD Interim Superintendent, members of the Rochester City School Board, and the surrounding town supervisors." Don't remember seeing any parent groups listed either... And "When asked about other types of school options that should be considered, key leaders [read military and business] suggested boarding school and charter school models." No surprises there.
Support for this (non)-idea comes overwhelmingly from the suburbs (83%) according to surveys. Survey participation was also 19% Black, 14% Hispanic, 41% White. RCSD breakdown is 60% Black, 26% Hispanic, 10% White. Not exactly what I'd call representative. Thankfully, the committee took the time to get input from a completely unbiased group of RCSD students. "The student group was made up mainly of JROTC cadets.." Oops...
The report also claims to have the support of RTA President Adam Urbanski. Except, according to Adam Urbanski, RTA only supported the participation of RCSD on the committee. Semantics, semantics...
I could go on and on, but here's the kicker: "What did the Advisory Committee determine to be the best configuration for the military component of the school? Answer and Results Summary: Submit an application for a National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC), which results in a full RCSD cost-incurred plan..." That's right, according to this report, we need this military academy so badly that we ought to assume the full cost ($25million+ over first 4 years) rather than apply for funding and suffer any delay! Of all the programs we could be putting our money into this is the big idea proposed by our school board's president? I'm disappointed to say the least.
What you can do: Get involved! Come down to the next Rochester City School District Board meeting and give 'em hell! The Board meets at 131 W. Broad Street 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Conference Room 3A. You can sign up to speak by calling the board at 262-8100 before noon today. But even just having people there to show support will be helpful.
See the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/243261486061536/
Read the REPORT OF THE RCSD SPECIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO EXPLORE EDUCATIONAL ALTERNATIVES Military-style High School Feasibility Study below:
Related: High number of expulsions at Western New York Maritime Charter School draw questions | Cornel West's "Connecting the Dots: Poverty, Racism, & Drones" | Counter-Recruitment: Building Skills and Thinking Strategically | Report Back: Rochester City School Board Meeting on Student Privacy and Military Recruiters | Report Back School Board / Military Recruitment 4/28 | School Board Military Recruiters and Student Information | Military Recruiting and Student Privacy Report Back 3: School Board Meeting May 28, 2009 | Rochester City School District: Answer to Parents, Not Marines | School of the Arts Students Confront Military Recruiters | Brief Report - Military Recruiters' Access to Student Information
About 80 people gathered in Washington Square park on April 21, the day before Earth Day, to raise awareness of Climate Change. The event was organized by Mothers Out Front. Some were wearing hats topped with windmills. Non-polluting wind energy is one of the "renewable" options to replace fossil fuels which add carbon to the atmosphere. A proposal to build an off shore wind farm on lake Ontario is facing political opposition. The problem, as many stated, is a system which puts profit for a few over people. The march continued around the block with a stop and some songs in front of the Rundell library, and ended back at the park a half hour later.
2015 was the warmest year since weather records have been kept. In Rochester we were outdoors in T-shirts on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 2016 is expected to be even warmer.
Solutions to the problem involve more than simply eliminating the burning of fossil fuels. Organic Farmer Liz Henderson explained that 1/3 of the excess carbon entering the atmosphere comes from poor land management and "industrial" farming practices. Carbon is actually good when it's in the soil. It helps keep plants healthy. Organic farming practices such as crop rotation, maintenance of ground cover and leaving forests intact can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil where it is needed.
As explained by Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi church, we must challenge the wrongheaded religious theology of domination over the Earth with humans at the top of the food chain instead of partnering with the very creation that sustains us. Pope Francis has become an outspoken ally in this cause.
More local events will be taking place in 2016. Meanwhile we can all help by contacting our representatives in Albany and DC and demand action on this threat to our very survival and by voting for candidates who recognize the problem.
Volunteers from the Rochester/Monroe County Homeless Continuum of Care’s CHRONIC HOMELESS WORKGROUP gathered at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 16, 2016, to do a spring cleaning and trash removal for area homeless. It was a collaborative idea that sprung naturally from advocates’ keen understanding of what homeless people work hard to maintain on a day-to-day basis.
Imagine living outdoors with your wits and scarce supplies to sustain you, and nowhere close to throw garbage away. Imagine your things getting ruined all the time, that then must be replaced, because it rained or snowed again last night. In the spring, with the snow gone, the trash is insurmountable and finally visible. The Chronic Homeless Workgroup is a practical and caring group of folks, and decided to pitch in to help.
Rebecca Miglioratti (DHS) and Nick Coulter (Person Centered Housing Options) are Co-Chairs of the Committee, and began to send out emails asking for volunteers. Amy D’Amico, Coordinator at the CoC, set up a Facebook event. Robert DeLeon of the Housing Council and Andy Carey of Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless (REACH) asked their networks to support the effort. A group of young men from Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Inc. at the University of Rochester and RIT decided to add the Homeless Encampment Spring Cleaning to their list of volunteer efforts. Many members of the Department of Social Services (Department of Human Services) joined the effort. Interested community members joined in. Former and present members of the homeless community worked alongside advocates and volunteers.
The South Avenue riverside area was a predictable mess, after a winter of piling up under the snow. There were ruined tarps and clothes and old food and garbage bags. There was a rat disturbed by advocate efforts who ran away (advocates ran too, in the other direction). There were bottles, a syringe, containers and cardboard. But there was also a yoga mat, candles, and books. There were tents and food and blankets that were still usable, and they were respectfully left undisturbed.
The cleanup took less than three hours, with over twenty people pitching in. Because The CH Workgroup has built bridges with the City in its work, it was possible to work with the assistance of City of Rochester Department of Environmental Services. DES provided a dumpster, lawn bags, rakes, gloves, shovels, and Grab-It tools for all the volunteers. The CH Workgroup plans to repeat the effort in the fall for another community-wide fall cleanup.
The Chronic Homeless Workgroup meets on the first Friday of each month at 1 p.m. at Rochester Regional Health Center (St Mary’s Campus). All are welcome.
Related: McGriff family evicted; two arrested | “Fearlessly Serving the Homeless” a speech by Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy, Rochester | Poverty: The Sin of Omission by Corporate News | Corporate Welfare: Why Rochester Can't Have Nice Things | Joe Woods Takes Back His Home After Being Evicted
"Racism Lives Here" is an incredible response / resource for those on and off the University of Rochester campus looking to understand structural racism and why the university's "We're Better Than That" campaign fails miserably.
According to the "Racism Lives Here" statement of purpose, the website is a response to the university's focus on "interpersonal racial prejudice":
This website, entitled “Racism Lives Here,” is a response to the University of Rochester's “We’re Better Than That” campaign. Rather than focusing on interpersonal racial prejudice, our aim is to address some of the limitations of “We’re Better Than That” by talking directly about the socio-historical structural forces that are crucial to understanding the nature of racism in the United States. Our goal is to situate racism at the U of R in a much broader context—to help demonstrate how, for many people of color, racist posts on Yik Yak cannot just be shrugged off. They cut deep, as they are indicative of centuries of oppression and discrimination displaying themselves in one of countless ways. We hope exploring this website can provide a framework for understanding how racism is much more than its most explicit manifestations (e.g KKK member in a white hood).
Our website has been curated to present a broad education on the issue of racism through multiple lenses and medias. By clicking on the links and dropdown menus at the top of the page, you will find posts written by the authors on topics such as micro-aggressions, notions such as “Black on Black” crime and “reverse racism,” housing discrimination, police violence, and more. You will find portraits of students with accompanying quotations describing their relationship to race and racism. You will also find links to other websites we have found useful.
Finally, we want to recognize the limitations of our own project. We are four students with limited time and resources. We are not here to provide “every side of the argument.” We acknowledge and recognize our biases, and we embrace them. We feel that for far too long, issues of systematic racism have been guarded from the public eye and left out of the conversations about race. This website is an attempt to provide educational information specifically geared towards U of R students. Our hope is to help shift the discourse around race to be more historically informed and structurally situated. We welcome comments and criticism which you can leave at the end of this page. We will continue to update this site. Please click on some of the photos below to hear testimony from members of the University of Rochester community and read the "Materials" to learn more.
UR senior students Darya Nicol, Robin Graziano, Miles Meth, and Shakti Rambarran developed and released the website publicly on April 13, 2016 , as an intervention combined with a shorter paper for their class The Black Body: Intersecting Intimacies.
The intervention focuses on "the socio-historical structural forces that are crucial to understanding the nature of racism in the United States," as a corrective to the university's campaign. A big part of this is structural racism. The students used this definition from the Aspen Institute:
Structural Racism: “A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice.Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.” -The Aspen Institute
Rochester Indymedia was able to sit down with three members of the team, and talk about the site and how it came about, on the same day it was released. See the interview below:
Check out "Racism Lives Here" (with all of its great information and resources) at: http://racismliveshere.wix.com/home
Related: McGriff family evicted; two arrested | #SayHerName #JusticeForIndia | Joey Lipari on Syracuse's Citizen Review Board | Cornel West's "Connecting the Dots: Poverty, Racism, & Drones" | Suspenced Justice: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline | Student athlete, who settled false arrest suit with City, racially profiled & falsely arrested for shoplifting | BYP100/We Charge Genocide activist Jason Ware shares his experiences | From inside Attica: Interview with Jalil Muntaqim
It can happen, and the most effective way it can happen is through personal anecdotes and connecting emotionally with someone (one reason I write this blog!). It’s going to happen through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to on a mass scale (although you never know… things do tend to snowball after a certain point!), and (unfortunately) it’s most likely not going to happen by pointing out facts and statistics to someone.
A study was just published in last week’s issue of Science Magazine. I heard about it through This American Life‘s most recent episode called For Your Reconsideration. If you want to hear the pertinent content, click on the link – there’s a player right on that page, and just skip ahead to the times between 22:20 and 29:00.
It’s about canvassers going door to door to talk to people about transgender issues, and the data was recorded and processed. The canvassers (who were both transgender themselves, and allies – and both were equally effective!) utilized a persuasion technique that’s been developed for close to 50 years by the LGBT Center in California. It’s called analogic perspective taking: “By inviting someone to discuss an experience in which that person was perceived as different and treated unfairly, a canvasser tries to generate sympathy for the suffering of another group—such as gay or transgender people.”
This tactic has not worked so well with age-old topics such as abortion, probably because everyone has such solidified ideas ingrained into how they think about those issues. Trans-issues are relatively new, and people are proving to be fairly malleable if approached in certain ways. In many cases, people aren’t even sure what “transgender people means.” Canvassers had an informative video with them if this was the case.
So for example, there’s an audio clip from one voter, and he is stumbling over wordage. He says, “There is one thing that disturbs me. A man that is a fag using man’s clothes* and going into a ladies’ bathroom. That I would not like.” The canvasser spends time explaining the difference between “gay” and “transgender” (mentioning that we don’t use the word “fag,” and the voter apologizes). The voter is the one who starts to reflect on his own experiences, and by the end of the conversation, he says, “I’m glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background. That it was very old.”
This occurred in Miami: in 2014, the county passed an ordinance banning discrimination against trans-people, and the canvassers are trying to convince voters that’s a good idea in case of backlash. “56 canvassers—some transgender, others not— knock on the doors of 501 people living in Miami. As a control, some of the interviews focused not on transgender discrimination, but on recycling. In all cases, the 10-minute interview included a survey before and after to measure people’s attitudes regarding transgender people, as well as follow-ups ranging up to 3 months later.”
The goal is to get the voter to engage in a conversation, saying the words themselves, sort of so they’re able to hear their own opinions, and to see if there’s any wiggle room. A lot of times, there is! One out of 10 voters changed their minds over the course of a 20 minute conversation. And when surveyed 3 months later, the change appears to have stuck.
This is so striking! It made me envision myself going door to door. Could I do that? I’m not sure, but more likely, I could see myself being a part of a panel, and even more likely, I could see myself trying to get my writing out to a wider audience…
To make good on that, I’m going to post this on facebook! (Something I rarely do.) I’m gonna spread the word through my local indymedia too! Any way possible.
I feel like there is hope.
All quotes are either from This American Life, or the Science Magazine article, here: “For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.”
Also, as a note, there’s information about a study that came before this one, that was most likely falsified. While this is intriguing, it kind of diverts attention away from the amazing findings of this more recent, scientifically sound, study. So just kinda gloss over that controversy…
*I’m pretty sure he meant to say, “women’s clothes.”
Related: Pride 2015 Blasts Off | "Against Equality" Speaker in Rochester | The Transcending Gender Project Opening Exhibition | I am not “your,”or anyone else’s, janitor | Ask your doctor if Shift Work Disorder is right for you | Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective
This morning (April 5, 2016) over 20 officers from both the Rochester Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrived at Liz McGriff's house, along with a Uhaul truck, a crew with lots of plywood, and lots and lots of crime tape. The street was blocked off to traffic while they seized the home, removed whatever belongings were in the house, and boarded up the windows and doors. A crowd of over 20 supporters gathered to voice their disapproval, and two protesters were arrested. No surprise, the police were not gentlemen. People were shoved and knocked to the ground. One officer attempted to block me from videoing the scene, and put his hand in front of my lens. I also was shoved by cops on a couple of occasions when they felt I had moved too close.
Liz was removed from her house. But the battle against MidFirst Bank has not ended. Midfirst is not an originator of mortgages. It "acquires" them. It's located in Oklahoma, and has no branches in NY. They buy up mortgages that have high interest rates and/or where the owner is stuggling to make payments, and then they resort to tactics that make it impossible for the homeowner to save the home. They issued Liz two home modifications. Both had monthly payments of hundreds of dollars more than she was paying before the modifications. They refused to negotiate with her even when her financial situation improved. After they foreclosed, they told her that she could buy back her house for $129,000 cash (higher now). Her house is assessed at $73,000.
There are now at least 14 vacant Midfirst foreclosed homes in Rochester, and over 70 more are in some stage of preforclosure. Their goal is to empty the houses in order to collect Federal Housing Administration insurance.
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are some of my photos (in the gallery below), and also check out the heartbreaking video I took of Liz after the eviction:
A statement from Pat Mannix regarding the eviction of the McGriff family:
My neighbor, Elizabeth McGriff, just lost her battle since 2014 to save her home and avoid eviction.
Liz bought her home in 2001 for $56,000. She lost her job and struggled to pay the mortgage. She went through several loan modifications, one with an interest rate topping 8 percent. McGriff couldn't keep up.
"I've tried numerous times (to renegotiate) and the amount of money they were asking for is ridiculous," she said. "If i was struggling to pay $800, how am I going to pay $900?" Liz could have kept her house if she paid the bank $129,000 upfront. That includes the amount of her original loan, plus numerous fees. The city assessed the property at only $73,000.
So after 15 years of paying her mortgage and taxes, today she is left with nothing. The neighborhood is faced with an empty house for who knows how long. On the scene, police are becoming violent and gathered protestors are being assaulted. Meanwhile, a bank in another state is the winner, once again.
Do not ever think this is not also about each of us. Life could happen and tomorrow it could be any one of us. We can only be secure if all of us are secure.
Fig was inteviewed outside of the jail where the two Take Back The Land Members were being held:
Take Back The Land Rochester meets on Wednesday nights. 7pm at the Flying Squirrel Community Space, 285 Clarissa St.
On April 4, 2016, a protest was held against the Erie County Holding Center and Sheriff Timothy Howard demanding answers and accountability for the murder of Rochester native and Buffalo resident India Cummings. Family, friends, and organizations such as Building Leadership And Community Knowledge (BLACK), Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition, and Blacktivist were integral to organizing the rally that shut down Deleware Avenue in front of the holding center in Buffalo, NY where India Cummings died. Supporters traveled from all over--with a solid presence from Rochester.
Ms. Cummings was arrested on February 1, 2016 as she was suffering a severe mental health crisis. She was held in the Erie County Holding Center for 16 days, then released from police custody to Buffalo General Medical Center where she arrived brain-dead, with a broken arm, broken ribs, a blood clot in her leg that would have been amputed had she survived, and was severely dehydrated. She died 4 days later on February 21st. Protesters demanded that Sheriff Howard and every person charged with her care in the Erie County Holding Center be held responsible for that.
India needed a hospital, and she got handcuffs. India needed help, and she got hurt. India deserves justice! #SayHerName #Justice4India
Related: #JusticeforIndia Say Her Name! | State Commission of Correction investigating death of India Cummings | Mysteries surround sudden death of Erie County Holding Center inmate | Family of dead inmate says they "want answers" on how India Cummings died | India Cummings was beaten to death by Holding Center deputies
Ryan Harvey in front of a screen showing debris on a Greek beach left by refugees.
Activist and political folk singer Ryan Harvey spoke at the Flying Squirrel in Rochester on April 2 2016. Ryan recently returned from Greece where he was doing humanitarian work helping refugees on the Greek island Lesbos. The beaches of the island are a popular landing site for refugees from wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine. Lesbos is located only 6 kilometers from the Turkish coast. The talk was followed by a performance of folk songs inspired by the crisis. An interesting fact was cited during the performance that Greece and Rochester were the only two places he has visited recently that still had an Indymedia.