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March for Justice

Racial justice advocate looks ahead in wake of City's mishandling of BBQ for Equality event

By Mike Pettinella

Reflecting upon his recent less-than-positive interaction with City officials over a BBQ for Equality event that didn’t happen, Batavia native Macy Paradise III asserts that the line of communication between the local government and racial justice advocates is still open.

“Since then, I’ve been learning a ton about City Council and the inner workings of it,” said Paradise (photo at right), who met with City management and law enforcement on June 1 in an attempt to set up the barbecue at Williams Park on June 7. “Local politics have always been of interest to me, and I’ve been an advocate for peace since the Iraq War.”

Paradise, speaking by telephone on Wednesday, said things have been smoothed over now, but he is disappointed that City leaders backed off on assurances that they would support the barbecue, which was to take place in lieu of a proposed March for Justice protest in Downtown Batavia.

As it turned out, the protest did take place on that first Sunday of this month and it proved to be peaceful.

According to Paradise, the BBQ for Equality evolved from the City taking a stance against a march or protest. He said that he and co-organizer, Chelsea Bianchi, of Le Roy, met with City Manager Martin Moore, Assistant Manager Rachael Tabelski, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Assistant Chief Chris Camp.

“When we originally sat down, they said that they were completely against any protest whatsoever and asked if we had any other things as alternatives to make it a little more peaceful,” said Paradise, 35, an employee of WNY Developmental Disabilities State Operations and Offices. “We had come up with the idea of doing the barbecue. As soon as it was mentioned, Heubusch started to agree to it, thinking that was probably the best way. He suggested doing it at Williams Park.”

Paradise said that Moore was asked if state regulations concerning COVID-19 would allow for such a gathering, and responded that it was just a suggestion from the governor, not necessarily a regulation, and that “we could get past the COVID aspect.”

“Then we asked them what we would be able to do about the food and electric situation at the park,” Paradise said. “Heubusch and Moore talked about the idea of including City Church and Heubusch pretty much said that he was almost 100-percent sure that City Church would help with the food aspect of it. Moore said that he would be able to turn the electricity on, but would not be able to open the restrooms due to the COVID aspect.”

Tabelski then offered to post promotional material on the City’s website, he said.

“She asked me to make a flier right away, which I did, and I sent that to her,” he noted. “I have email correspondence stating that it’s all a go, and we’re moving forward.”

The next day, a letter from Heubusch directed to City business owners went out, which, to Paradise, “was kind of almost a warning to the Batavia businesses that we were having this event.”

Paradise said plans for the barbecue went south after City Council President Eugene Jankowski apparently had received reports about the meeting.

“Jankowski said something to us after we had started promoting the flier,” Paradise said. “He had mentioned in a comment – at this point, I had no clue who he was – that it needed to be agreed upon by City Council, and that there is no City-sanctioned event.”

Paradise acknowledged that he wasn’t aware of the City’s application process (and wasn’t advised of one).

“If I would have known, I probably would have asked for more assurances on paper. I just assumed that because the City police chief and manager are saying ‘yes’, that it was a definite. Obviously, I was in over my head,” he said.

Paradise said he called Heubusch prior to a scheduled meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and got the news that the City was unable to proceed as planned “due to the issues with City Council and getting the proper permission.”

He also said the police chief urged him to cancel the protest.

“At this time, I was in correspondence with Greg Munroe, Ray Williams and Vic Thomas (members of the March for Justice team that organized the protest),” Paradise said. “They had decided that the barbecue wasn’t really their thing and wanted to move forward with the protest. I told Heubusch that I was going to follow their lead now and I would no longer push the barbecue issue.”

Jankowski, acting as a Batavia resident and not speaking on behalf of the City, issued a public apology on Wednesday:

“I would like to personally apologize to the BBQ for Equality organizers, Macy Paradise and Chelsea Bianchi, for any misunderstanding I may have caused involving the cancellation of their event. I’m confident we can continue to move forward in a positive direction.

Previously, Jankowski said he was sorry on a Facebook post, which read, in part:

“The city manager made all the promises Macy said he did even though he wasn’t authorized to do so. I was given misinformation and I believed it. I apologize and I am working to make it right with Greg (Munroe), Macy and Chelsea.”

Moore, contacted by phone on June 10, said he did not wish to comment about any possible miscommunication.

Paradise said he “appreciates the apology.”

“I am actually friends now with Jankowski on Facebook and we’ve had a couple conversations privately since that time,” he said. “We have handled it exactly how you would expect it to be handled – very maturely. We’re good. I would say that moving forward, we’re definitely able to work together.”

Paradise said that he was confident that the March for Justice protest, which drew several hundred people, would remain peaceful and safe.

“If there wasn’t so much City resistance, I would have moved forward with (promoting the protest),” he said. “I have way too many friends, locally, that are business owners and I wasn’t willing to put anything in danger when it comes to the City, our community.”

He said his "Embrace Racial Equality" group on Facebook has grown to more than 2,000 local members in the two weeks that it has been posted.

“It’s really just a news resource where people can come and asked questions, get educated on the movement, receive some background knowledge, and ask questions of City Council and other officials,” he said.

Paradise also said he hopes to revive discussions to hold a BBQ for Equality.

“The BBQ for Equality is just postponed, really. It’s not necessarily cancelled,” he said. “We’re planning to do that in the fall with live entertainment. Hopefully, we can work with the City to see about getting the application.”

This weekend, the March for Justice group is conducting a June Teenth Freedom Day, a register-to-vote celebration, set for 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and noon to 7 p.m. Saturday on the parking lot of the YWCA of Genesee County at 301 North St., Batavia.

The event will feature food, beverages and live entertainment. On Friday, Paradise will provide the music in his role as DJ Macy Paradise and will be accompanied by his girlfriend, Nicole "Nici" Johnson of WBTA Radio.

YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper said she’s on board with it, but did advise that social distancing guidelines will be enforced and that participants are required to wear masks.

“We wholeheartedly are supportive of the group, its mission and the event,” she said. “As you know, the YWCA stands for peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”

Resident with COVID-19 symptoms attended Sunday's 'March for Justice' now tests positive

By Billie Owens

Health Update from the Genesee County Health Department:

The Genesee County Health Department received notification that a Genesee County resident who attended the “March for Justice” event on Sunday, June 7th, in Batavia has tested positive for COVID-19.

The individual did not know they were positive prior to attending the event but exhibited symptoms associated to COVID-19 at the event.

The individual reported to have been wearing a mask the entire time they were at the event from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Currently three close contacts have been placed under mandatory quarantine in Genesee County and two additional close contacts reside outside of the county.

“Although the warmer weather is here, COVID-19 is still very much in ourcommunities” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

“We must continue to take actionsto decrease the spread of the virus by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water, and avoiding large crowds such as social events and parties.”

Pettit also mentioned that an increase in cases may slow down the reopening of businesses in our region.

“Our region must maintain a set of metrics in order to continue the phased reopening in our region," Pettit said. "If we see a spike in cases or hospitalizations, the reopening process will either be delayed or stopped depending on the metrics.”

Click here to view the NYS COVID-19 Regional Metrics Dashboard.

Although the exposure risk is low, anyone who attended the “March for Justice” is encouraged to monitor their symptoms for 14 days from the event until June 21st.

If symptoms develop, contact your primary care provider or click here to find a testing site near you.

Governor Cuomo is also urging all people who attended a protest or rally to get a COVID-19 test (please click the link above to find a testing site near you).

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include: a fever of 100.4 or greater, fatigue, loss of taste and and/or smell, headache, cough or difficulty breathing, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Health Updates provide new or updated information on an incident or situation; can also provide information to update a previously sent Health Alert, Health Advisory, or Health Guidance; unlikely to require immediate action.

City Council members grapple over subject of BBQ for Equality miscommunication

By Mike Pettinella

Batavia City Council members are united in touting Sunday’s March for Justice as a huge success, but declined to shed much light upon the miscommunication over a proposed City-supported BBQ for Equality that failed to materialize.

However, The Batavian has learned that the snafu over the barbecue at Williams Park – which was cancelled and set the stage for the March for Justice outside of the City Centre – may have triggered some far-reaching repercussions.

When contacted today about his reaction to the protest and comments on the ill-fated BBQ for Equality, Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that a significant discussion took place during a 90-minute executive session following Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Asked if there was more to the post-meeting debate, he said, “As usual, in politics there’s always something going on, but I can’t comment,” he said. “You’ll know soon enough. When things are going smooth, sometimes people have to rock the boat. And when they fall in the river, then they cry.”


Council President Eugene Jankowski, when advised of Bialkowski’s statement, said “that since this is a personnel matter, I can’t comment at this time.”

Calls to City Manager Martin Moore's office and cell phone were not returned at the time of this story's posting.

Problems arose on June 1 after published reports indicated that the City of Batavia (in conjunction with City Church) would be providing food at no charge at the Williams Park barbecue, and that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch would be the guest speaker.

Jankowski acknowledged there was a disconnect between organizer Macy Paradise and the city manager’s office.

“Speaking for myself as an individual council member, when I heard about the BBQ I contacted the city manager,” he said. “I was told there was miscommunication between the organizers and the manager’s office – and I acted upon that information.”

At that point, Jankowski said he posted on Facebook the process for groups to have an event in the City – that it had to go through City Council first with an event application and insurance in place.

“That had not been done at the point,” he said, “because the next Council meeting wasn’t until the day after the scheduled barbecue.”


Other council members said they weren’t clear about the “negotiations” between the city manager and organizers, with Bialkowski mentioning that he has heard several stories but none of the facts.

“There was a lot of confusion and a lot of hearsay,” he said. “It’s really easy to point fingers that somebody did something but … unless you were there.”

Rose Mary Christian emphasized that the request did not come before City Council and that no one had the authority to say that the City would purchase food. She contends that the event organizer misunderstood Moore.

“We’re in a financial bind with this COVID-19, and have lost VLT money and sales tax revenue, and many people are still unemployed,” she said.

Regardless, the situation put the City in a tenuous position, with many people commenting on social media that City officials reneged on a promise.


Concerning the March for Justice, Council members agreed that it was a worthwhile and momentous occasion.

“I am very pleased that it was peaceful and glad that they did because they need to get their point across,” Paul Viele said. “Everyone needs to be treated equal and fairly.”

Viele and the other council members mentioned health reasons for not being able to attend, citing COVID-19 concerns, but all said they wish to engage in further conversations.

Patti Pacino called the march “fabulous.”

“They were peaceful and they cared and they meant what they said,” she said. “I’m all for it and I’m very proud that it went off so well in our city. I know many people who were there, and they said the feeling was good.”

She added that people’s feelings cannot be taken lightly.


“I think it brought the point home to a lot of people that this is serious; this is a real thing. It’s not just people griping,” she said.

Christian said the “Black Lives Matter march was really, really good in the City of Batavia” but didn’t think many people are being treated unjustly here.

“If you break the law, you have to pay for that – one way or another,” she said. “As for the protest, it was very well organized and very well participated by people.”

Bialkowski said he was pleased that the protest was peaceful.

“I am glad the whole thing went off without any hitches – only one arrest,” he said.

As for the other Council members, Al McGinnis said he did not want to comment, Jeremy Karas could not be reached and John Canale and Kathleen Briggs did not return phone messages. 

Jankowski reported his positive thoughts at Monday’s Council meeting, and pledged to do whatever he could to foster a better relationship between Council and Batavia’s people of color.

Moore credits law enforcement, Jankowski impressed by protesters' 'genuine love of community'

By Mike Pettinella

While Batavia City Manager Martin Moore focused on the professionalism of local law enforcement during the “March for Justice” outside of the City Centre on Sunday, City Council President Eugene Jankowski zeroed in on the protesters’ “genuine love of the community.”

Speaking at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting at City Centre Council chambers, Jankowski said he was impressed by the passion and positive attitudes that were exhibited during an event marked by chants and signs calling for racial equality.

“One of the things that I really took home from that event yesterday is that everybody there was in a good positive mood … and there’s really a genuine love of the community there,” Jankowski said in a brief report to his colleagues. “They were shocked, at least that’s what they told me, … that people thought they might hurt the community because they love it.”

Prefacing his remarks by noting that he was invited by organizers to attend, Jankowski said people of color are looking for more community involvement by the police department, more police accountability to a higher authority (New York State) and fair treatment in the community.

“They feel uncomfortable in businesses, and I’m not sure how we can address that, but some of the members of the march feel like they are looked at differently when they go into a business,” he said. “They (say they) are treated like a drug dealer or a criminal because maybe someone of color at one point was a drug dealer or a criminal. And they feel like they get followed around, and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Jankowski said some other comments included the desire to see more minorities in local jobs, such as in the police and fire departments and school system, which may include civil service exams.

“We can get that information out and encourage people to participate,” he advised.

He encouraged citizens to contact City Council with concerns but did note that the City’s email server has been out of operation for a few days and should be fixed by the end of the week.

Moore, on the other hand, commended fire, police and public works personnel for coming together “seamlessly when it came to actually implement this plan.”

“It was clear, it was well thought out, it was well designed," he said. "Our thanks go out to our state and federal partners, and our county partners. They did a lot of work; a lot of hard work. There were a number of moving parts going on throughout the City during this event and every one of them came off, as far as we can tell, pretty seamlessly.”

The manager went on to say that City police and others from several communities and state and federal agencies “conducted themselves extremely well.”

“It was good to see us not have to bring some of the resources in that were ready to come in if they needed to. That was a relief, and it was also a relief to know that they were there,” he said.

Moore thanked everyone who participated and those who “were there to protect and serve.”

“I got to watch it from many different angles and it was very refreshing to see,” he said. “It was good to see the aftermath, which might have been a concern but, again, our law enforcement was well prepared and ready for it. Things that could have been challenging or serious weren’t.”

On another front, Moore said he spoke with a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Administration this morning and is setting up a meeting to go over COVID-19-related expenses incurred by the City as it seeks reimbursement.

He said department heads have been documenting expenses they believe will qualify to be reimbursed.

In another development, Council voted in favor of a resolution to increase the level of the City’s unassigned fund balance from 10 percent to a range of 15 to 25 percent of the general fund’s operating expenditures.

Moore pushed for the fund policy change in light of the coronavirus and its impact upon municipal governments.

“An event like COVID-19 that hammered the economy the way it did is not sufficient,” he said. “Fifteen to 25 (percent) does two things. We wanted to set ourselves a higher floor and we also want to set a ceiling to shoot for.”

He said the increase “sends a signal” to the state Comptroller’s Office, residents and auditors that the City is prepared for a worst-case scenario on the revenue side.

Council members discussed this resolution at length at its Conference Meeting last month, but for only a few minutes this time before approving it.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved an appropriation of a $554,112 grant from the state Department of Health to replace up to 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets;

-- Approved an $18,750 contract with LaBella Associates PC of Rochester to provide administration/engineering services for a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative project to improve Jackson Square.

Council’s first face-to-face (or more appropriately, space-to-space) meeting since early March was beset by audio problems, especially on Zoom and also on Facebook Live. It did get easier to hear on Facebook Live as the meeting progressed, however.

Sheriff thanks all involved for peaceful protest in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Thank you to the March for Justice organizers, public officials, and community members for assisting in making yesterday’s demonstration a peaceful one. I would also like to sincerely thank and recognize all the local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, Correction Officers, and Emergency Services Dispatchers for their professionalism.

Once again, we saw the cooperation amongst our law enforcement agencies, government officials, and community leaders. Genesee County is an amazing community that I am proud to have lived in my entire life.

Working together, we can move forward to address the many concerns that were voiced yesterday.

~Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr.

City Council president to people of color: 'The conversation will continue'

By Mike Pettinella
Video Sponsor
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Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski said he plans to continue the conversation started by speakers at Sunday’s Downtown “March for Justice,” assuring people of color in the community that city leaders will be open to their concerns.

“What I can say is ‘get your council person involved; we’ll help you,’ ” Jankowski said today as he prepares comments to be shared with other council members at tonight’s Business Meeting.

Council members will gather at City Hall for the first time since early March, but the public and media will not be allowed to attend – instead having to view it via Zoom videoconferencing or Facebook Live.

Jankowski said he wasn’t aware of the hesitancy among African Americans and other minorities to contact City Council.

“There are certain members of the community that apparently didn’t feel comfortable calling us, and they didn’t know why they didn’t feel comfortable calling us,” he said. “So, they want to call us now and I say, ‘Please do.’ ”

Jankowski said organizers of the protest, which drew hundreds of residents to gather in front of the City Centre and march on Main Street, invited him to attend. He and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch stood quietly by as speakers with megaphones addressed the crowd.

What the two men heard were impassioned pleas for city officials to “hear our cries … this is my community … we are uncomfortable … Black Lives Matter.”

They also heard from speakers who said they have been harassed by police, don’t feel welcome in restaurants and other public places and are fearful for their children’s safety.

“This is very emotional. I didn’t realize some of the pain that the members of our community were feeling. It definitely sparks me to work a little harder to try to drill down and find out what we can do to make everyone who lives here feel that they’re included and welcome here,” Jankowski said when interviewed by The Batavian during the event.

Victor Thomas, the protest’s key speaker, said he believes the peaceful protest was a good beginning.

“We got our message across," Thomas said. "You can see that Batavia is standing with us today – and that’s a beautiful thing. But it doesn’t stop today. Today is just a start. We’ve got to continue the conversation." 

He issued a call to “push this agenda to prove that this is our community.”

“It’s not what they said. Not with these boards on these windows. Not this negative vibe that they were sending around town about buses coming in here. This is Batavia. This has always been Batavia,” he said. “We thank you for listening to us, but we need to see some action. We will continue to march for justice.”

Jankowski said he plans to stay in touch with organizers and bring their issues to City Council.

“My belief, from what I’ve been told by the organizers, is that they are reaching out to all members of Council to create a path of communication going forward,” said Jankowski, who apparently was the only council member to attend the protest.

Heubusch acknowledged that “this is a conversation that is long overdue for all of us, I think.”

“We’re certainly going to start that conversation,” he said, calling the protesters “a bunch of good guys here and a bunch of great women that want to do the right thing. So, we’re here to help in any way we can. We want to help keep the peace and move this community forward.”

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., a person of color, also spoke on Sunday.

Afterward, he pointed to the “pain and hurt” across the nation.

“It’s no different here in Batavia. There’s been lack of visibility of people of color in various positions,” he said, noting that 22 percent of Batavia students are either African American or Latino. “But it is important to be unified – just to let them know we’re in this together. This we have to address, and the best way to solve this is to get engaged and get involved.”

VIDEO: March for Justice, Batavia, NY, June 7, 2020

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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While livestreaming yesterday's protest/march, I was also video recording with my DSLR camera. Here are key points from three hours of recording edited into 20 minutes so that you might, hopefully, be able to get a flavor of the day's event in a condensed version.

I hope and trust that the editing has maintained an accurate reflection of the event. A few people have complained that during the livestream, they couldn't hear interviews. The iPhone used for the livestream is an omnidirectional mic. It picks up everything. The shotgun mic on my DSLR is directional, so you will be better able to here the excerpts from those interviews in this video.

This is a significant event in Batavia's history. Please watch.

For more photos, visit Steve Ognibene's photo gallery

Photos: March for Justice in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens


More photos from today's March for Justice in Batavia by Philip Casper.









Photos: March for Justice in Downtown Batavia

By James Burns


Photos by Jim Burns, taken this morning at the protest "March for Justice" in Downtown Batavia.












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.

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