Change groups say gun violence is violating “basic right of safety”

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – When students return to high school in Rochester Tuesday, they will see police outside the school. That’s a response to the attempted murder of a 16-year-old on the steps of Franklin High School.

But, a group who met at the school Monday said the answer lies in the community, not the police.

“We, the people, declare a state of emergency due to the overwhelming impact of gun violence, mental health issues, drug abuse and crime in our community,” said Sister Niya Shabazz of the Friends of Malcolm.

Shabazz read a list of general demands to help people feel safe, from asking for immediate access to mental health counselors, to telling businesses to stop allowing students to smoke weed outside their stores.

Behind her group are the Franklin High School steps where a 16-year-old was chased and shot at.

 “Our basic human right of safety and dignity is not fulfilled in our community,” Shabazz said. 

Brean: “There are all kinds of organizations that would like to see police back in school and police outside the school. What would you like to see?”

Shabazz: “So, like I said, we hold each other accountable. And we do not believe that police response should only, we cannot, we cannot police our way out of violence, out of crime!”

After the shooting at Franklin, the Rochester School Board asked for police at five high schools when schools start and let out.

The cost is $84 an hour for each officer, for a minimum of four hours in the morning and afternoon. It passed City Council’s Public Safety Committee (which includes every member of council) 6 to 3, and lead to this kind of debate.

LaShay Harris: “I want you guys to understand that I work at Franklin and I see the difference in the students when law enforcement out there talking to them.”

Stanely Martin: “And I would also act differently if someone (a police officer) was walking around who has caused a lot of harm in my community with a gun. That would definitely change my behavior.”

Harris: “Um, I would tell you there are serious fears about not necessarily the police, but other students causing havoc on other students.”

Mary Lupien: “I am frustrated because this happened last year. It’s happened again. And I want to know what we’ve done in the interim.”

The group outside Franklin HS says the answer to safety lies with parents and neighbors.

“We have allowed years of trauma to shape our mindset, to believe that systemic institutions are the answers to these problems. And they’re not,” Shabazz said. “We are the answers, right here.”

The police will be present outside city high schools for the rest of the year.

The group The Mission H.O.P.E asked that we link their petition here.