ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Colleen and Danny Wegman released a statement Thursday, addressing this week’s protest outside the East Avenue Wegmans which forced a closure of the grocery store.
The full statement said:
“There was an event at our East Avenue store on Tuesday, serving as another reminder that there continues to be a great deal of pain in our community and across our nation. It takes time to truly understand the significance of these events and how we can learn from them. We have a caring, listening culture at Wegmans and always seek to understand prior to sharing our response. We continue to listen to our people, our customers, and our community.
At Wegmans, we continue to have zero tolerance for racial discrimination of any kind and stand for diversity and inclusion for all. In fact, we believe in going beyond this, to help those in need rise to the top. Since 1982, we have spent over $150 million educating, training and developing folks in need in the Rochester community.
Rochester is our home; for more than 100 years we have been committed to always helping others, doing the right thing and making a difference in every community we serve. We wouldn’t be who we are today without the Rochester community.”
Tuesday, March 23 marked one year since Daniel Prude’s encounter with the Rochester Police Department which ultimately led to his death a week later.
A rally began around 8 a.m. at Parcel 5 in downtown Rochester. From Parcel 5, demonstrators marched to the RTS station and blocked the bus path around 9:20 a.m., offering to give free rides to people who needed a commute.
About a half hour later, demonstrators marched from the bus station to the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street where they again shut down traffic.
About 15 minutes later the group left the intersection and headed further east down East Avenue. Around 10:20 a.m. demonstrators reached the intersection of Culver Road and East Avenue where they again shut down traffic.
Marching further east from there, the demonstrators reached the East Avenue Wegmans just before 11 a.m. and blocked off the entry. Doors to the store were closed and customers inside were kept in the building temporarily, but were let out shortly thereafter.
Protesters told our crew at the scene they would be at Wegmans “for as long as it takes.” Activists set up tables and did chalk art outside the store.
Shortly after 12 p.m. a spokesperson from Wegmans released the following statement:
“Our East Ave. store is currently closed due to protest activity taking place outside of the store. At this time, no customers remain in the store, and the doors will remain closed. Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers.“
As of 1 p.m. Tuesday the group of protesters were still outside the East Avenue Wegmans — eating pizza and listening to music — as the store remained closed as of 3:30 p.m.
“We want to make sure that when we’re disrupting traffic, when we’re advocating and raising our voices, we’re not singing to the choir,” said Ashley Gantt, Free the People ROC organizer. “When we do it in our communities were singing to the choir because we are the people being brutalized — our people know — it’s these folks in these communities that don’t know.”
Demonstrators said they were calling for the firing of the officers involved in Prude’s death, defunding the Rochester Police Department, and new responses to mental health crises.
Wegmans officials say the East Avenue store will remain closed until Wednesday at 6 a.m.
By 4 p.m. the protest had dwindled as many had regrouped and went to the Celebration of Life event on Child Street, which began at 5 p.m.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.