According to @rachbarhart via her Twitter account, 31 people were arrested in Rochester’s Manhattan Square Park for being there after 11pm. The City code states that being in the park after 11 is a violation for which you can be arrested, as any skater kid in town knows well.
Lets applaud both the cops and the protesters for handling the situation with dignity and what appears to be a bit of respect. Compared to the ugliness in other cities, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for in Rochester.
Nevertheless, that the code even needed to be enforced is silly. To state the obvious, in a democracy we are all responsible for the rules by which we live. We vote for leaders and take responsibility for abiding by the rules – laws or ordinances – that those leaders put in place. Thats why if I decided to ignore the city ordinance against being in the park past 11, I would expect to be asked to leave by police, possibly even arrested.
But if we’re all responsible for the laws that govern us, then surely in cases of peaceful protests – especially ones that are in conjunction with an entire national movement – we can as surely let those rules slide a bit. Not nullify laws or strike down ordinances permanently, not advocate chaos and anarchy, just let things be in this one case. That is especially true in the case of a city ordinance, which after all, is not even a law.
Rochester is certainly a small-c conservative town. We like our rules and we like our orderly existence, so maybe its not so strange that what happened last night happened. Hell, we can’t even get food trucks downtown. But I think also some blame can probably be assigned to the general inertia of our sad City government these days, as this does strike the same leaden, tone-deaf chord as City reactions to Kodak and PAETEC.