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Hawley joins in support of law enforcement during today's Zoom press conference

By Billie Owens

Submitted image and press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley has reaffirmed his commitment to supporting law enforcement after participating in a Zoom press conference led by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.

On a Zoom call this morning, Barclay reaffirmed the entire Conference’s support for law enforcement members across the state. Hawley wants it to be known that he is in full agreement.

“The ridicule and disrespect our law enforcement officials have received in the wake of George Floyd’s murder are unacceptable,” Hawley said. “I have said time and again I am all for peaceful protests, and there are points the protestors are making that are well met.

"But we need to recognize that for true change to happen, we need to give those in the system a chance to work with their communities and adapt to the needs of their citizens. Bail reform doesn’t make law enforcement jobs easier, and neither does the repeal of 50-A. These officers need our support to make the change we want to see from them.”

Barclay was joined on his Zoom call by New York State Sheriff’s Association President and Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey J. Murphy, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police President and Town of Greece Police Chief Patrick D. Phelan, Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino, along with Hawley himself.

Each participant shared their perspective on the changing nature of law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and expressed their willingness to work with local communities to improve, while also sharing the struggles that come with the job of law enforcement.

VIDEO: The first day of the first-ever Juneteenth celebration in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
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The four local men who organized the March for Justice in Batavia on June 7 have joined together with eight more local residents to form Just Kings Social Club to help promote racial equality in the city. Friday, they hosted their first event at the YWCA: Day one of a two-day Juneteenth celebration.

Today (Saturday), the event starts at noon and runs until 7 p.m. There will be food and beverages, live entertainment, as well as vendor booths.

The YWCA is located at 301 North St., Batavia.

The end of slavery in the United States is not marked by one single date.

Juneteenth evolved out of the cooperation of June 19 in Texas, the day slaves were freed in the former rebellious state in 1865, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in territory still held by Confederates.

It wouldn't be until December 1865 that the 13th Amendment was ratified banning slavery in the United States. Many believe the struggle for equality and liberty for black Americans has yet to be fully realized.

Photo: Residents at Bank and Washington supporting 'the movement'

By Howard B. Owens


Kathy Poole and Patty Poole were sitting in their yard at Bank and Washington in Batavia late this afternoon with signs around them supporting Black Lives Matter, giving every car that passed their way a big, smiling, friendly wave.

Patty said they wanted to support the movement. 

"I feel like something in the system is pretty screwed up and there has to be a change and that starts at your home, you know," Patty said. "Spread the word."

As for Juneteenth, Patty said the holiday isn't just about black power. It's about power for all people.

"The color of my skin does not define me but a special day like this, I’m going to support it, of course," she said.

Photo: Kathy Poole, Jeneve (last name declined), Jaya, and Patty Poole.

VIDEO: Batavia Chalk Out for Racial Equality

By Howard B. Owens
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Area residents today turned out to the Peace Garden to draw on the sidewalk with chalk messages and pictures in support of racial equality.

Employees at Rochester Regional Health in Batavia take a knee for George Floyd

By James Burns


Photo by Jim Burns.

Batavia employees of Rochester Regional Health / United Memorial Medical Center take a knee at the War Memorial at Jerome Center at 8:46 this morning.

The time of 8:46 signifies the length of time a white police officer in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, knelt on the neck of George Floyd May 25, killing him. The police were called after a store clerk suspected Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill at the store. Three other officers at the scene are also charged in the case: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

A message from Rochester Regional Health President and CEO Eric Bieber, M.D.:

"Today, we as healers at Rochester Regional Health stand with you for healing. The events we have witnessed in our nation and community these past few days are almost unbearable to describe. Already frayed by fighting COVID-19, we witnessed the brutal death of George Floyd — a horrific repeat of too many deaths gone before. Then in our own Rochester community, a peaceful protest devolved into violence.

"Each member of our Rochester Regional Health team is touched by these tragedies—more than 17,000 souls, along with our friends, loved ones, neighbors, and families. And of course, you, our patients. Many of you were born and raised in Rochester. Others hail from every continent on earth. We are diverse in every possible way — race, ethnicity, job description, cultural background, and religion.

"While diversity is our strength, there is more work to be done to bridge the divide. Today we are united in our grief and our resolve. All throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have been telling you that we will get through this together. Those words mean more now than ever. Together is the way we will get through this to mend our hearts and community.

"Thank you, each of you, for your precious differences and united spirit."

A message from the president of the NYS Sheriffs' Association

By Billie Owens

From Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy, president, New York State Sheriffs’ Association on behalf of the Sheriffs of New York State:

As professional law enforcement officers who have dedicated their careers to saving lives and helping people in need, the Sheriffs of New York State condemn the senseless, shocking action of the officer who unjustifiably took the life of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

It was against everything we stand for, everything we train for and everything we demand and rightfully expect from our police officers.

We also condemn those who, since then, have used that great injustice as an excuse to commit other senseless, brutal acts which unjustly deprive more innocent people of their lives, their livelihood, their life savings and their livable communities.

Conservators of the Peace Sworn to Uphold the Constitution

We are sworn to uphold the Constitution and we fully support the Constitutional right of all citizens to peacefully assemble, protest and petition their government for desired change.

As Constitutional officers who have been given the duty of Conservators of the Peace in the counties, we know that conserving the peace does not mean just keeping everyone calm. It means assuring an atmosphere where all citizens can enjoy their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without having those rights unduly infringed upon by others.

Thus while we will do all we can to accommodate and protect those who feel compelled to publicly display, in a peaceful way, their justifiable outrage at the way George Floyd died, we will not condone or accommodate in any way those who would deprive others of their rights by hijacking those legitimate displays of concern to turn them into opportunities to assault, murder, loot, burn and spread anarchy.

We Ask Politicians and Leaders to Refrain from Incendiary Comments

We also must ask those politicians and other leaders in the communities who continually speak of “systemic racism” in our police agencies for their own political advantage to refrain from such unfounded and incendiary comments. It is disgusting conduct, which itself fuels racism on all sides, and leads to worse, not better race relations in this country. Instead we would welcome them to engage with us in open and honest discussions on how we can enhance community relations while regaining the public’s trust in law enforcement through fact-based studies and training.

Deputy Sheriffs and all law enforcement officers suffer because irresponsible leaders paint them with a broad brush. There are 800,000 police officers in this country. The inexcusable action of one police officer in Minneapolis cannot be used to justify labelling all 800,000 dedicated, hard-working police officers as racist. We know of no police officer who condones the actions of that one rogue cop in Minneapolis.

They, like most citizens, were sickened to see that video, but we also know that it is not representative of the 53.5 million contacts that law enforcement has with civilians annually. We know of no police officer who joined the force because they saw it as a license to kill or abuse others. Most police officers join out of a simple desire to help people… of any race. Most police officers have shown more helpfulness, and personal compassion and kindness toward down-and-out citizens… black, brown, yellow or white… than have any of the self-righteous politicians and others who sow hatred and distrust of the police with their irresponsible rhetoric.

Those politicians, when they finish their rants, can then go home to their mansions and comfortable homes, secure in the knowledge that the police officers which they just maligned will continue to do their duty to protect them and all the citizens of their communities, even though their job has been made doubly more difficult by race-baiting rhetoric.

Sheriffs Work Hard to Build Public Trust

There is one thing upon which we and critics of the police can agree: there is distrust of the police in many minority communities. We Sheriffs work hard to build public trust in law enforcement. The training of our Deputy Sheriffs includes extensive training in community relations, anti-racism, recognizing implicit bias, and proper use of force. This training results in officers who are sensitive to the need for racial neutrality in enforcing the law, and their enforcement decisions are based upon a person’s conduct, not their color. That plain fact is, of course, contrary to the popular narrative.

In conclusion, the Sheriffs of New York make a commitment to our communities. We, and our citizens, desire a society where we can all live in true peace. While each of us has Sheriffs have outreach, in some form, to community and religious groups and to minority organizations and minority communities, it is clear that more has to be done to combat the false view of police as the oppressors, which has been inculcated into many minority communities, and which allows opportunists to take advantage of such things as the George Floyd tragedy to foment more hatred and more chaos.

The Sheriffs of New York, through our New York State Sheriffs’ Association, will immediately undertake the task of strengthening, in an organized way, the ties between Sheriffs’ Offices and minority communities and organizations in the counties across the State, with a goal of affirmatively demonstrating that our desire is to serve all citizens, and as the Conservators of the Peace in the counties, to secure to those citizens true peace, which means the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and happiness in a just world.

Downtown businesses, police, and even the city post office brace for Sunday's 'March for Justice'

By Billie Owens

Organizers behind a planned protest in Downtown Batavia on Sunday, June 7th, have distributed posters announcing the "March for Justice" which starts with a gathering in front of Batavia City Hall at 8 a.m.

From that location at 1 Batavia City Centre, the plan is to march PEACEFULLY -- which is in all caps in the black, white and red poster -- starting at 11 a.m. to the City of Batavia Police Headquarters, located a short block away at 10 W. Main St.




Plans for the March here came together after plans for a free BBQ at Williams Park on Pearl Street -- the "BBQ for Equality" -- were nixed by city officials Tuesday. They said that the state would need to OK the event and City Council would need to approve it, too.

Earlier this week City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch expressed concern about outside agitators coming to Batavia to cause trouble if there was a protest Downtown.

Some Downtown business owners say they are apprehensive about the protest because of rioting, looting and brutalities they've seen on media and social media during similar events in cities large and small nationwide. A couple of them even say they plan to board up their storefronts.

The Batavia Post Office, at 2 W. Main St. next door to the police station, isn't taking any chances if things go awry. This afternoon they put up a sign on their front door telling people their lobby will be closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday and won't reopen until 5 a.m. on Monday, June 8.

"We're closing the lobby during those hours out of an abundance of caution," said Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, Western New York. "We apologize for the inconvenience. We just want to be sure the building is kept safe and sound."

The murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis May 25 ignited the latest protests against racial inequality, police brutality, and social injustice in America.

Hawley calls on governor to halt bail reform laws during mass looting and riots

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley has called on Gov. Cuomo to consider changing his position on bail reform in the wake of mass looting and riots following the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Hawley’s first and foremost goal is to ensure law-abiding citizens have their livelihoods protected during this period when bad actors are taking advantage of thinly stretched law enforcement and the chaos that has ensued. 

“As someone who truly believes in the power of the U.S. Constitution and the rights it affords its citizens, I want to make it clear that any peaceful protestor has my full support; that is their right as an American,” Hawley said.

“What we are seeing is a large sect of criminals taking advantage of this situation for their own selfish gains to abuse the situation and sow seeds of anarchy and dissent, and they must be held accountable for their actions.”

“I am calling on Gov. Cuomo to consider a more aggressive and punitive response to these looters and rioters who are causing the destruction of our state,” Hawley said. “Because of current bail reform laws, these criminals are arrested and then immediately released back on the streets to continue their unlawful behavior.

"I appreciate our law enforcement who are working to contain these looters and rioters, and restoring peace and order. However, these officers are handicapped by the bail reform laws, as they create a continuous cycle where these criminals get arrested and released again and again. That needs to change during this period of unrest.”

VIDEO: Protestor who took video of jail draws law enforcement attention

By Howard B. Owens
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A Batavia resident was among protesters on Main Street this afternoon but in his attempt to document his participation, he shot video of the Genesee County Jail.

That drew the attention of local law enforcement. He said he was approached by a Batavia police officer and a corrections officer and asked not to take photos of the jail. He said he told officers he was in a public place and could photograph anything visible to the public. He indicated officers didn't pursue matters further and he said he would continue to carry his sign and take video of the jail.

LIVE: Interview with Batavia PD Chief Shawn Heubusch

By Howard B. Owens
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Interview with Batavia PD Chief Shawn Heubusch. We will be talking at 10:30 a.m. about the killing of George Floyd and the events, both nationally and locally, that have followed.

Young people want their voices heard

By Billie Owens

Several young people are peacefully protesting social injustice in front of the Batavia City Police headquarters on Main Street this afternoon.

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BBQ for Equality in Williams Park canceled, organizers still plan march downtown for Sunday

By Howard B. Owens

A plan for a unity gathering at Williams Park on Sunday has been canceled according to one of the organizers, Macy Paradise.

Paradise said city officials have pulled out of the BBQ for Equality.

Attempts to contact City Manager Martin Moore have so far been unsuccessful.

There will be a peaceful protest march in Downtown, Paradise said, and that event is being organized by local people of color.

"I will march alongside them," Paradise said.

Yesterday, Paradise met with city officials and said at the meeting he was led to believe the city was committed to cosponsored a BBQ for Equality in Williams Park.

Later in the evening, Moore called The Batavian and said plans for an were actually not finalized and that the city would need to clear the plans with the state.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch yesterday expressed concern about outside agitators coming to Batavia to cause trouble if there was a protest Downtown. The venue change to Williams Park was meant to help avoid such a turn of events.

VIDEO: Batavia man holds 'Black Lives Matter' sign at Main and Ellicott

By Howard B. Owens
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Ken Marrocco, a Batavia resident, was at the intersection of Main and Ellicott in Batavia this afternoon and evening carrying a sign that read "Black Lives Matter."

Marrocco was responding to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer, a death that has sparked nationwide protests, some peaceful, some turning violent.

Tonight: Batavia First Presbyterian Church hosts online 'Prayer for Remembrance and Healing'

By Billie Owens

Batavia First Presbyterian is hosting an online prayer event this evening (via Facebook): "Prayer for Remembrance and Healing."

It is a prayer service from 7 to 7:30 p.m. to remember the murder of George Floyd and to pray for the healing of our country.

Rev. Shiela Campbell McCullough and Rev. Roula Alkhouri will be leading this together.

"Let us unite our hearts in prayer, honoring the life of George Floyd, and praying for the healing of our country from racism and violence. We will ring the church bell and spend some time in silence remembering the (nearly) nine minutes George Floyd gasped for air."

YWCA of Genesee County issues statement on the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the outrage it has sparked

By Billie Owens

From Millie Tomidy-Pepper, executive director, YWCA of Genesee County:

We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd, and to the larger Minneapolis and St. Paul community. YWCA continues to be outraged by the violence and deaths of people of color in America due to police brutality.

We at YWCA of Genesee County felt outrage following the death of George Floyd, a black man suffocated by a white police officer earlier this week. We send our condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd and also to the families of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and to all communities of color.

We are also thinking of our sisters and brothers at YWCA Minneapolis and the whole Minneapolis-St. Paul community through this difficult and frightening time.

YWCA Minneapolis’ Midtown location, located in the heart of the area where George Floyd was murdered and the scene of current protests, alongside YWCA St. Paul have served the Twin Cities community for over 100 years. We stand together with the people that we serve and our community stakeholders to eliminate racism and empower women.

This work and our mission are at the core of what we do, and today we lift our collective voices to demand justice.

“George Floyd was one of ours," said Gaye Adams Massey, CEO, YWCA St. Paul. "He took advantage of a training program offered by YWCA St. Paul and, like many of those we partner with, he was taking steps to build a brighter future.

"The anger, anguish, and grief we are feeling in this community are real. And yet, we must channel those emotions into positive action that demands justice, drives change, and most importantly honors his memory."

“We condemn the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers," said Michelle Basham, MPA/ESQ, CEO/president, YWCA Minneapolis. "We have seen this tragedy before.

"Unfortunately, George Floyd is just one of countless other black lives lost to police violence, including that of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. We must work toward racial justice. And we must work in partnership with others to hold our elected officials and law enforcement accountable.”

Together with YWCA Minneapolis and YWCA St. Paul, over 200 YWCAs across the country unite to answer the cry for justice, peace, and dignity for all. YWCA continues to call for dismantling systemic racism and equal protection and opportunity under the law through its public policy and advocacy work.

At YWCA, we demand a world of equity and human decency. We envision a world of opportunity. We commit ourselves to the work of racial justice.

We will get up and continue to do the work until injustice is rooted out, until institutions are transformed, until the world sees women, girls, and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.

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