Mayor's Ferguson Post Stirs Controversy

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Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren's comments about a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer has set off a firestorm on social media.

The mayor posted on Facebook Monday night, "I know that many members of our community are upset about the decision today in Ferguson. I am too. As I was thinking about how to respond, I went back to how the situation started: With a young, unarmed black man and an authority figure who had little regard for this young man’s life."

Hundreds of people commented on social media about the original and shared posts. Many people believed the mayor was being critical of a police officer who was found by a grand jury to have acted in self defense. 

"I am shocked that the mayor of our city who is an attorney, would discount the judicial system that she herself defends. We were not on the grand jury and we were not privy to the evidence. Your statement is disappointing," posted Regina Altizer.

"All decent human beings feel sad about the tragic loss of Michael Brown's life. This however, was a very irresponsible comment about the officer," said Kathleen Marchaesi.

The brother of slain officer Daryl Pierson also weighed in, posting "How can you stand at my brothers service and be allowed to speak and read some poem. (Crap by the way) and now you want to say how you are upset about how a jury of Darren Wilson's peers chose not to indict him. And you stand on the side of evil and everything that is wrong with the city you claim to love and want to make better. To relate this to Trayvon Martin. WOW!! So will you stand by your officers?? Or the animal that murdered my brother??? There is no difference."

Warren responded to Pierson on Facebook, "I stand by what I believe is right. My disdain for the person that killed your brother has not changed and I believe that he should stand trial and be judged by a jury of his peers. Unfortunately, in this case this person will never stand trial and thus people will never know the full facts around the case. If people were given the ability to know the full facts then maybe the public outrage would be different."

The conversation about Warren's post continued Tuesday morning.

"I am totally dumbfounded," said Rochester Police Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo, who said he received dozens of text messages last night about the post. "I'm upset."

Mazzeo later talked to the mayor on the phone.

"She apologized to the fact that it was not meant in any way to discredit any of our police officers and the work they do in the city," Mazzeo said, describing their conversation as cordial and thoughtful.  "And the fact that we need to continue build relations in the city. It's hard to do that when you make a mistake like that."

Mazzeo said officers take grand juries seriously.

"A grand jury means something completely different to police officers. If we're involved in a shooting, our whole life comes down to what that grand jury's going to say? Is it the end of our career? Is it us going to prison? It's a very, very traumatic event," Mazzeo said.

Warren said she was only trying to start a dialogue. She said she was not being critical of police, but the process used in Ferguson to investigate the shooting.

"I think that we are all in the process of healing. we're in the process of healing, rather your're talking about the police department, the Pierson family or the community at large. We have our opinions and we have our thoughts, and so to be able to express them, that is okay with me," the mayor said.

Warren's Facebook post also mentioned a march that would take place on Sunday at the Liberty Pole. Warren said she would be there, but she was not encouraging people to join her. Rather, she said she was providing an outlet for people who wanted to peacefully demonstrate.

Warren said she does not regret speaking out on Facebook.

"I think that it is okay for us to have a community conversation. It is okay for me as mayor to not necessarily agree with someone's else's statement and for them not to necessarily agree with me," she said. "But as a community we should come together and be able to have that and embrace our differences talk about our differences, talk about what we do well, talk about what we need to improve on, and move on from there."


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