ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Looking back at Black Lives Matter protests that engulfed the Rochester area during summer of 2020, Reverend Myra Brown says what she remembers most is a community passionately coming together to demand justice.
Rev. Brown says activists were marching in the streets and working behind the scenes, acting as an essential link between protesters and police.
“It was our time to stand up and to call for the justice that we needed,” Rev. Brown said.
Marches and protests over the death of Daniel Prude following an encounter with Rochester police rallied through the city for weeks.
Rev. Brown was there for one of the first marches, a cold September Saturday where chants for justice filled the streets.
“The police got in riot gear form and they stopped us from being able to march to the public safety building, literally all hell broke loose there,” said Rev. Brown.
“The ways in which our protesting were being responded to were really steeped in these historically deep anti-black sentiments,” said Rev. Brown.
A pastor and an activist, Rev. Brown felt pulled to help, utilizing her relationships, she set a meeting with the mayor and helped to reintroduce the elder model to city protests, using people like herself as liaisons.
The model had been previously used by Jim and Shirley Thompson, and was re-introduced to the city by Rev. Brown.
“As I worked with the activists and I saw people getting arrested and police blocking streets, I had some relationship capital to be able behind the scenes to call the mayor or send a text,” said Rev. Brown.
The reverend herself was seen on the front lines between protests and police.
“We were able to really make sure that the protesters were safe and that the police stayed where they were and didn’t hurt protesters,” said Rev. Brown.
Revered Brown started her career as a nurse, able to bring her experience working with trauma patients to the marches over the summer.
Rev Brown’s community service and activism goes back before summer 2020. A pastor at Spiritus Christi Church, she is the third black woman in the country to run a Catholic-based congregation.
She is part of the Spiritus Christi Church Anti-Racism Coalition and through the group is pushing to create Rochester’s first civil rights park.
She has hosted numerous anti- racism discussions and is now focusing her time on police reform, using what happened during the summer to propel change.
“So I think what we did is created a model and showed them that this non violent model works and that we are a community that can manage ourselves,” said Rev. Brown. “I think we’ve had problems with this policing blue print for a long time and now I think this is our window and our time to fix it.”
Rev. Brown has worked with a local group of pastors to create a new community-based policing blueprint. She has shared it with other activist organizations as well as officers in the police department, and has been meeting with state leaders to discuss it.