More that 40 people gathered at the corner of Liberty and Elm Streets in Penn Yan from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday, June 1 to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and racial inequities in the legal system.
The original organizer of the event cancelled it after receiving perceived threats to her safety and that of any protesters. Within the same day, another woman stepped forward to reorganize the event, attracting support from people of all ages and races. as they stood and sat at the corner in front of Walgreens Drug Store, many drivers honked and shouted their support. There were also jeers and insults from a few who do not share their views.
Peaceful protests around the country continued to be marred by violence and looting, including those in Rochester. More than 4,400 arrests have been made since viewing the viral video of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day, resulting in Floyd’s death. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologized to Floyd’s family Sunday, saying that firing Chauvin and the other three officers involved in the incident was the right thing to do. Chauvin has been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter.
Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike made the statement, “I have been in law enforcement and public safety for nearly 50 years, and when you think you may have seen it all, I was shocked to see the video from Minneapolis Police arrest of George Floyd. All should know that law enforcement officers have taken an oath, and that we have values in serving and protecting the public. What I viewed was very contrary to the training and practices of law enforcement professionals. We must always value human life and dignity of all people, and take whatever action necessary to protect and serve our citizens and communities. We must value and defend the rights of all as guaranteed under our state and US constitutions. We must recognize that in holding public service positions that public trust is vital. As Sheriff, my greatest asset is the men and women that work in this office 24/7; and I vow to keep them well-trained and equipped professionals as both peace officers and county police officers, as I appreciate their services in these contemporary challenging times. Yes, I did say as both peace and police officers. Law Enforcement leadership cannot let that policing concept be lost or misguided for to be in this noble profession we wear both hats. We must always be conservators of the peace and public safety, and if that requires an arrest, then do that function appropriately as professional law enforcement officers.”
The local organizers coordinated with the Penn Yan Police Dept. to ensure the safety and peace of the protest. Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham stopped by and was photographed with several of the gathered crowd. Officers passing in patrol cars flashed the peace sign to them, and when interviewed, said there were no negative incidents of any kind associated with the local protest.In a press release received after Tuesday's deadline, Dunham stated, "Yesterday members of the Penn Yan Police Department met with a group of protesters who were protesting the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. The protesters gathered in front of Walgreens on Liberty Street and Elm Street from 3pm to 6pm. The protest was peaceful and the organizer met with the police department beforehand and cleaned up the area when finished. Chief Thomas Dunham met with several in the group and expressed that what happened in the video of George Floyd was counter to all police training in NY state. The police department cherishes its relationship with the community and is always striving to better it. We thank the Penn Yan community for all of the support."