Changes coming to Puerto Rican Festival?

Updated: 08/04/2014 6:21 PM
Created: 08/04/2014 5:43 PM WHEC.com

Changes could be coming to the future of Rochester’s Puerto Rican Festival. Another year of problems led to only one arrest Sunday night. Now, the people who plan the festival say they are looking at alternatives to stop the arrests entirely.

Incidents of violence were down significantly this year compared to years before. Festival organizers say a lot of that has to do with changes they've made and will continue to make in the future.

Orlando Ortiz, Puerto Rican Festival organizer, said, “Although, we can’t control what happens after the festival, we certainly want to be part of the discussion and help solve the problem.”

As president of the Puerto Rican Festival, Ortiz says he's taken a number of steps, including closing earlier, to help curb the chaos that happens when the festival ends. One option he is considering for next year is obtaining a permit for a second parade.

Ortiz said, “At least talk about it and see what it would look like, how could we control it and things of that nature, before we can actually say that is an option for us.”

Wearing riot gear and armed with pepper ball guns, Rochester Police were ready for Sunday night's unruly crowds. News10NBC’s cameras captured people hanging out of cars, honking horns, waving flags, and blocking traffic. 

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “History has told us that this happens and so we want to put in place the things that we hope will deter it and also talk to the community about their responsibility. We want them to enjoy themselves, but we want them to do it safely.”

Last year, police arrested 27 people, mostly for disorderly conduct. This year, there was only one arrest.  Many others were ticketed for traffic violations. On top of that, people were also throwing rocks and bottles, some of which struck a police car. Beverly Martinez says she even heard gunshots outside her house on Bradford Street. 

Martinez said, “All of a sudden, I heard the shots ring out. It sounded like they came from up this way on the corner and then about 15 or 20 kids all went running down this way.”

The mayor says she will be meeting with the police chief to go over potential changes for next year.

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