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Batavians make presence known at 'Back the Blue Rally' at Brockport Veterans Club on Saturday

By Press Release
Apr 3, 2022, 7:08pm

Press release:

City Councilman-at-Large Bob Bialkowski attended the “Back the Blue Rally” Saturday afternoon at the Brockport Veterans Club along with Assemblyman Steve Hawley who was one of the guest speakers. The entire club was filled to capacity with attendees and local dignitaries.

This rally was hosted by State Sen. Robert Ortt and retired New York Police Department Captain Alison Esposito (photo at right), who is a candidate for the state’s lieutenant governor. The event was conducted as a protest to SUNY Brockport inviting Anthony Bottom, a convicted murderer, aka Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, as a speaker.

“This is a SUNY school who wants to give a platform to legitimize a domestic terrorist,” Esposito said. 

Bottom was convicted of murdering two New York City police officers in 1971. He's out of jail and living in the Rochester area.

Controversy erupted when SUNY Brockport invited Muntaqim to speak to students. "SUNY Brockport decided not to have the April 6 event paid, but made it virtual instead,” said SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson.

Bialkowski said Esposito talked about the violent nature of Bottom when she described how Bottom lured Patrolman Joseph Piagentini and Patrolman Waverly Jones to a public housing project in Harlen and assassinated them.

Jones died instantly and after Mr. Bottom ran out of bullets, he took Piagentini's service weapon and shot him 13 times while he begged for his life.

One day after he was released from prison, Bottom registered to vote on Oct. 8, 2020, by falsifying his application, which is a felony.

“I do not comprehend how a convicted murderer can claim he was a political prisoner and also was treated with racism when one of the fine officers he murdered was an African-American,” Bialkowski said.

“He has no business using a taxpayer funded state university as a platform to attempt to influence students. SUNY Brockport needs to be held accountable for allowing this activity. And why our governor (Kathy Hochul) has been silent about this is extremely puzzling.”

Batavia also was represented by retired City Police Officers Lt. James Henning and Sgt. John Peck (left to right in photo at top).

LIVE: Protest and March for Equality in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Jun 7, 2020, 8:29am
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Here's the plan: I'm going to attempt to periodically livestream today's events. It won't be a constant stream. This player, if it works right, will show streaming content when I'm streaming, and show as unavailable when I'm not. I believe if you just keep the stream open, in play mode, it will start playing for you whenever I'm streaming.

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

By Howard B. Owens
Jun 3, 2020, 7:52pm
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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.

As city backs away from officially participating in unity event, new organizers working on peaceful protest

By Howard B. Owens
Jun 2, 2020, 10:24pm

Though he wasn't part of yesterday's meeting, City Council President Eugene Jankowski said tonight there was never any agreement between the city and organizers of a planned protest against racial injustice to coordinate an alternative event in Williams Park.

Jankowski said he communicated to Macy Paradise within 30 minutes of Paradise announcing a BBQ for Equality on Facebook that no event can be sanctioned by the city without City Council authorization.

"I was very clear that morning with Macy and Chelsea (another person reportedly involved in organizing the event) that unless it goes through Council, the City Manager has no authority to approve anything like this," Jankowski said.

Paradise also sent information to The Batavian about the event and said that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch had agreed to speak at the event. After The Batavian spoke with Heubusch and Heubusch said he would speak, we published a story. We then did a live video interview with Paradise later that afternoon and Jankowski said that interview was well after he had informed Paradise that the city could not commit based on just a meeting with staff to either participating in an event or approving an event without a permit, which must be approved by the City Council.

Jankowski said while he doesn't know the particulars of the meeting on Monday morning, he doesn't believe Moore made any verbal commitments and he certainly didn't commit the city or City Church to providing free food for the event.

This evening, the City Manager Martin Moore put out the following statement:

“Due to the ongoing events that are occurring in Buffalo, Rochester, and elsewhere in the region, the City of Batavia will not participate in, and has not approved any official community event at this time, as we need to keep citizens safe. We have been working with multiple law enforcement agencies across the region to ensure that we are prepared for any type of public demonstrations, and we anticipate a respectful response from our local community members. ”

We also spoke with Moore and asked about the consequences of "moving" Sunday's event from Williams Park, which will less likely be a target for outside agitators, to Downtown -- which is the likely location for a planned march or protest if not Williams Park. Moore said it isn't a move because the city was never involved in any event at all.

Some local business owners have expressed concern about a protest taking place Downtown.

Moore said violence following peaceful protests in Rochester and Buffalo has given the city pause to participate in any event. Jankowski said the city was also concerned about liability and the city getting sued if something went wrong for an event they "co-sponsored."

"We're a town of 15,000 people," Moore said. "We are talking to state and federal experts in law enforcement and taking their advice."

Paradise let people know today that the BBQ was canceled and that other people were organizing a march.

Tonight, we reached out to Greg Munroe, one of four people organizing Sunday's protest/march.

Munroe said he will be at City Hall at 8 a.m. Sunday to help ensure things remain organized with the march scheduled to start at 11 a.m.

"We're still actually putting together the plan," Munroe said, "but this will be a peaceful protest that starts at City Hall."

The message he hopes the protest will convey is one of solidarity for the whole community. He said in that spirit, he hopes the police will participate, as they did today in Lockport (there have also been examples in Schenectady and Auburn). 

He said police participation would help show the community that if anything tragic ever happened here, "there will be accountability; they will be on the side of right regardless of who is wrong."

When it looked like there was going to be a BBQ in Williams Park, Chief Heubusch was going to be one of the speakers. Munroe said he hopes the chief will participate in the event on Sunday, that he would be welcome to join in.

Jankowski said he supports a peaceful protest Downtown. That is everybody's constitutional right, he said. He did say he expects everybody to obey the law, which prohibits gatherings of people from blocking traffic.  

Munroe said he doesn't anticipate a problem but he doesn't know how many people will show up. 

He also acknowledges that the biggest issue at protests in other communities has been outside agitators. He said he and his fellow leaders will be on the lookout for troublemakers, but that the potential for trouble is why it's also important for the police and protestors to cooperate.   

If organizers spot somebody who might cause problems, they will look for ways to de-escalate or ask them to leave.

"If we try to de-escalate and the police try to de-escalate, especially if we do it on both sides, we should avoid any problems," Munroe said.

The city also issued this statement tonight:

The City of Batavia stands in deep sadness and grief over the action of officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota resulting in the death of George Floyd. We have also been saddened over recent situations where Americans were murdered, abused, and treated unfairly by members of their community or law enforcement officials.

“I do not condone the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, and I am proud to say that the City of Batavia promotes a high professional standard at our Police Department, with Officers committed to protect and serve all of our citizens. The City of Batavia Police Department is deliberate in their training and certification and take a community policing approach to engage the community and build bridges,” said Martin D. Moore, City of Batavia manager. “As always, my office is open. Please contact me if you have any concerns.”

“The actions of the police officers in Minneapolis leading to the death of George Floyd were despicable and unjustified given the information known to me at this time. No individual is above the law, and those that commit crimes, whether civilian, law enforcement, or government official, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. The City of Batavia Police Department believes whole-heartedly in compassion, understanding, and communication with our community and condemn violence of any kind,” said Shawn Heubusch, City of Batavia Police chief.

The City of Batavia and Officers of the Batavia Police Department stand in solidarity to support meaningful change, however, the violence and chaos that has erupted in our region and across America must be stopped. Exploiting meaningful protests is a deplorable act, blurring the lines of what we all seek to achieve. 

Batavia has gone through difficult moments, even difficult decades, but is a community built by Americans from all walks of life who worked hard to build a vibrant family-oriented city that accepts all people.  

“We are willing to listen and have a dialogue with anyone, at any time, to better understand and reach common ground, but we will not allow our community to be a target for violence. The Batavia Police Department is working together with local, state, and federal law enforcement in a coordinated effort to protect the safety of our community, and are prepared in the case that any individual or group(s) incites violence,” concluded Police Chief Heubusch.


Young people want their voices heard

By Billie Owens
Jun 2, 2020, 5:20pm

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
Jun 2, 2020, 4:48pm

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
Jun 1, 2020, 8:15pm
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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.

VIDEO: Batavia man protests death of George Floyd at Upton Monument

By Howard B. Owens
May 30, 2020, 7:29pm
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A Batavia resident spent most of the afternoon carrying a protest sign in front of the Upton Monument at Ellicott and Main in Batavia that read "George Floyd is Every man!"

George Floyd, 46, died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 while a police officer, based on a video made by a teenage witness, kept a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the road, while the officer had his knee on his neck.

During the incident, Floyd told officers multiple times he couldn't breathe. At one point, he cried out, "Mama!" according to news reports. Floyd reportedly said, "My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts," and requested water. The police do not audibly respond to Floyd who begged, "Don't kill me."

The police officer who kept his knee pressed against Floyd's neck is reported to be Derek Chauvin. He has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin along with fellow officers Thomas K. Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, were fired immediately after the incident.

Chauvin reportedly had 19 prior complaints against him for alleged misconduct.

Floyd was originally from Houston, Texas, and had a prior felony arrest but moved to Minnesota to start a new life and had no criminal record in Minnesota. He and Chauvin had worked together as security guards at a nightclub prior to closure of the establishment due to coronavirus.

At the time of the deadly incident, Floyd was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

The incident has touched off protests and riots nationwide.

Local student leaders to hold rally at Williams Park and march to Batavia City Hall this Saturday

By Billie Owens
Mar 21, 2018, 1:08pm

Press release:

On Saturday, March 24th, the kids and families of March for Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington, D.C., to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. There will also be a rally that day in Batavia, followed by a march to Batavia City Hall.

Led by student leaders, we will march in solidarity with Washington, D.C.

When: Saturday, March 24th, 12 p.m.

Where: Rally at Williams Park, 101 Pearl St., Batavia

What: Speeches by local student leaders as well as local Pastor Jim Renfrew and retired Monroe County Sheriff's Lieutenant Gary Pudup of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. A march to Batavia City Hall will follow the rally.

For more information please contact [email protected]

Protests, protestors and police: At the convention

By Philip Anselmo
Sep 2, 2008, 11:53am

A news search on Google brings up 170 articles from across the nation—plus one from our friends in the United Kingdom—about yesterday's protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Needless to say, no two news outlets handle the event in the same way. Many look for some figure to represent the action: the ever-juridical CNN, for example, focuses on the arrests: "Hundreds to be charged in court," reads the headline.

Most news outlets, however, can't resist the opportunity for a good old fashion us-versus-them report, and a few of them will even be so bold as to tilt their coverage in favor of one side or the other, empathizing with the police or the protestors. A Fox News affiliate in St. Paul, for example, seems to take the side of the police against the "unruly and violent" mob. There is no mistaking the tenor of the language in this report which classifies the demonstrators as "anarchists" who are "causing chaos" in the streets. For a different take, you can check out a Minnesota daily newspaper that takes up the showdown from both sides but nevertheless seems to make allegiance with the protestors. This is made clear less in the language than through the telling photograph of a lone demonstrator getting "hosed down" with pepper spray. She stands alone in the center of the image, cringing and hunched over as an intimidating line of masked police in full riot gear march at her, sticks held bent sinister across their chests. Nothing of their faces is visible behind the reflective plastic and the gas mask tube over the mouth.

However interesting it is to do this compare and contrast with national news stories, and whichever point-of-view you choose to take on the events in St. Paul, there is one very definite image that emerges from out of all the coverage, and it is best represented in these two paragraphs from the New York Times:

As the protests grew, scores of National Guard troops in riot gear and gas masks fanned out around the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention is being held, and set up a blockade about three blocks away. Police helicopters buzzed over St. Paul throughout the day. Humvees painted in fatigue green ferried water to police officers working in the 88-degree heat, and city dump trucks were used to block traffic on some streets.

At one point, a group of about 200 protesters — many wearing black bandannas across their faces and some wearing black balaclavas — roamed through downtown, shouting and chanting and throwing street signs and concrete planters in the road. At another point, a police officer grabbed one of the youths. Others wrested him away, then appeared to knock the officer to the ground. On one knee, the officer released an arc of pepper spray.

What an image! Step aside Alexis de Tocqueville, this is democracy in America.

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