RPD: Protesters start several fires on Jay Street in Rochester Sunday


ROCHESTER, N.Y.(WROC) — Rochester police and firefighters were on the scene after several fires were set in roadways Sunday on the city’s west side.

Investigators say around 6 p.m. a group of protesters gathered near Glasser and Masseth Streets — not far from a deadly shooting involving the Rochester Police Department on Friday, when Rochester police shot and killed a man during a traffic stop.

Police say a group of about 75-90 protesters marched from Glasser and Masset to the corner of Child Street and Campbell Street.

Police say at about 9 p.m., a group of about 50 protesters stopped at Child Street and Jay Street and lit three construction barrels on fire in the middle of the road. At Jay Street and Orchard Street, police say the group lit more debris on fire in the road. Police blocked off traffic to these roads at the time.

Police say at midnight, 20-25 protesters remained near Jay and Orchard where they re-lit a vehicle on fire that was previously burned.

Tony DeSimone’s auto repair shop on Jay Street had Charred shells of customer’s cars Monday. DeSimone says he wants to leave.

“I have no business. People won’t come down here, they’re afraid they’re going to get shot and killed,” says DeSimone

He says the City is long overdue to remedy the problems so many are having here. ‘Bruce’, works on Jay Street. He says everybody called fire and police Sunday night, but says the response was lackluster.

“It’s like the police don’t (have any) control. They don’t come down here. You call and they don’t come,” says.

“Once it was safe to go in, they went in a put out the fires,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “Everyone went home and no one was injured last night. We understand that people have a right to protest, they don’t have a right to destroy people’s property.”

Mike Johnson with ‘Free Rochester-BLM’ says whoever these protestors were, they need to get back to peaceful protesting.

“When they marched in Selma, there was no burning, no looting, no rioting going on,” Johnson said.

DeSimone does not want a repeat of last night. He says it’s time for the City to step in and fix this whole area.

“I’ve seen people shot in that grocery store, I’ve seen people — standing here — I’ve watched them get shot. I’ve seen people shot on the corner,” he says.

Police say there were no reported injuries or arrests.

Rochester Fire Department assisted with putting out the fires, police say. Fire department officials released the following statement about the fires Monday afternoon:

At approximately 10pm on May 16th the Rochester Fire Department began to receive multiple reports of fires being set in the area of Jay St. and Orchard St. This location was also the area of an active community protest. The fires were quickly determined to be two vehicle fires and multiple trash totes. These fires posed no threat of extending to nearby buildings or becoming an imminent danger to life safety. 

The Rochester Fire Department is committed  to protect people’s property, however its first priority is to protect the life safety of the community and its firefighters. Last night’s events proved to be challenging, as the fire department’s policy is to standby if there is no imminent life safety at risk until coordination with RPD determines that the scene is safe for entry by large fire apparatus and firefighters. In incidents where there is an imminent danger to community and life safety, fire department policy is to initiate an immediate direct response with the police department to protect lives and property. 

We ask all the members of the community to assist us in the continuation of our mission to provide for the safety of our neighbors, friends and families. Please work with responders to provide a safe area so that we can focus on providing life safety services to all members of the City of Rochester community.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said Monday that Sunday’s protests were in response to the shooting death of Mark Gaskill Friday. Businesses near where Sunday’s fires took place are calling on the city to act.

Tony DeSimone owns the auto shop who had cars set on fire. He says he’s been asking the city to do something to put an end to the daily cycle of violence.

“This is the most dangerous corner in the City of Rochester right here,” DeSimone said. “I’ve called the mayor’s department twice, told them how dangerous it is over here — and it is dangerous. People father on the corner over here; 10, 15, 20 people — park their cars all over the place. You hear gunshots ringing out in between buildings. Nothing is ever done. Zero.”

DeSimone said he’s fed up, adding that he’s witnessed multiple people getting shot while going about their daily business. He says every day he fears getting shot and killed just going into work.

Meanwhile, a local Black Lives Matter group held a press conference Monday to condone the damage done by protesters.

Mike Johnson with Save Rochester BLM says whatever happened there was not them. Johnson said people who do acts like the ones that transpired are hurting the cause, and he’s calling for a peaceful demonstrations.

“We can be a lot more productive,” Johnson said. “When they marched in Selma, there was no burning, no looting, no rioting going on. This is what we need to take it back to.”

Regarding the deadly shooting on Glasser Street, the mayor said nearby witnesses will be instrumental in the ongoing investigation.

“The body worn footage does not give you a clear picture of everything that happened there,” Mayor Warren said Monday. “It gives you an audible sense of what was going on, but not the visual sense. So the witnesses are going to be very important in this.”

That case is currently being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The two officers involved in the shooting are currently on administrative leave.

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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