A lot has been written by the local and national press about a BLM protest shutting down a market belonging to a certain western New York regional grocery chain, a chain which had its start in my western New York hometown of Rochester, New York. The near-riot at a Wegman’s Market made for some dramatic video: BLM kids chalking slogans on the drive in front of the store in support of local martyr-of-the-cause Daniel Prude, and BLM kids banging on the sliding doors of the market’s main entrance, doors that an employee inside the store rushed to close to lockout protestors. The protestors and store employees, in the video, stared at each other, separated by only inches, on opposite sides of the glass doors.
All-in-all, the protest was one of the lighter BLM incidents to have occurred in Rochester. You might have seen video from around the time of the George Floyd protests; A woman was tag-team beaten by protestors with fists and boards, and on another video, protestors overrunning and chasing off diners from a restaurant’s patio. Those incidents were BLM Rochester at their fever-pitched dramatic finest. Banging on the doors of a supermarket, by comparison, is a little anticlimactic. It’s like a summer camp kids production of Annie after you’ve just seen the traveling version of (insert name of contemporary musical here). Most of what has been written so far about the supermarket incident that I’ve seen is near meaningless. There has been reporting of the basic facts of the story, but no context for them. And, they were written by people who don’t know my city. I’ll try to describe a slightly larger angle to the affair.
If you read about the recent protest at the supermarket, the basic take away you will have is this: BLM protestors chose a local chain grocery store to make their stand because the Wegman’s chain grew their business with many stores located within the city limits. Over time, they have closed most of their locations within the city, and opened new stores in the suburbs and out-of-state as well, leaving many of their original customers (city residents) feeling in the lurch.
The protestors had a point in a sense, as far as their venue of choice to make a scene. I’ll tell you about the closure of one Wegman’s market that I can see people having been upset by, a market I used to frequent around the time it shut down.
The Wegman’s market near Mount Hope Cemetery (burial place to both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas) closed in 2003. Its departure left that neighborhood without a convenient option to grocery shop. Years later, in 2015, the area of the city that had been home to the Mount Hope Wegman’s was developed into Rochester’s “College Town,” at the edges of the University of Rochester campus and its affiliated Strong Hospital. It was rumored early on that a grocery store might be part of the eventual College Town construction when College Town was still on the drawing board. And, gloriously, there was, in fact, a grocery that opened along with the rest of the new storefronts: a small, almost boutique grocery that didn’t fit the neighborhood and closed just a year after opening.
You can imagine neighbors in that area of Rochester mourning the loss of the local Wegman’s, then after many long years without a neighborhood grocery being excited by the prospect of a mysterious new market, but then having mixed feelings about the smallish upscale store they could afford only on occasion, and the letdown when even that was shuttered. I understand the disappointment. I felt it too.
That said, when BLM blames Wegman’s for pulling up stakes from the city that gave them their start, BLM accepts no responsibility themselves as city residents.
What I’m about to get into in the next paragraph I have no have citations for, it’s stuff overheard at parties from two different people. The first is a man who worked at the Hudson Avenue Walmart Supercenter. The other is a man who worked in the Monroe Crime Analysis Center (the division I believe he worked in), which he describes as a department that monitors violence in the city by triangulating audio of gunshots and has other high-tech means of surveillance.
Rochester basically, as explained to me, has a crime crescent; a half-moon circling the city center, in which almost all local crime takes place. Occasionally, criminals travel outward to the suburbs for quick strikes. There is an outlier to this crescent that is the Hudson Avenue Walmart Supercenter which serves many city residents and includes a market. The Hudson Avenue Walmart is commonly referred to by locals as the “Fallujah Walmart” (really) for the high level of criminal activity that takes place there. My acquaintance who worked in that store told me some of the lunacy he’d seen there. He had a number of anecdotes, one involving either a naked or a near-naked man walking around the store late one night long before Daniel Prude tried something similar.
To give you a sense of the regular clip of violence that takes place at the Hudson Avenue Walmart, I found two mentions of the store on the Monroe County Firewire Twitter feed for March 23rd, the same day that BLM protested across the city at the East Avenue Wegman’s:
I can very easily imagine if the Hudson Avenue Walmart pulls up stakes, and gives up the attempt to serve city residents. BLM would blame Walmart as they now do Wegman’s, but where is BLM in trying to bring any sense of order to the Hudson Avenue and nearby neighborhoods?
Many have already noted that BLM doesn’t seem too concerned with black-on-black violence, and there’s quite a bit of it in Rochester. By the end of March 2021, there had been 59 shootings and 11 homicides in Flower City.
A question: Has BLM met with Hudson Avenue Walmart managers, understanding the store’s value to the city community (as BLM seem to have grocery stores on the mind), and worked on a campaign to de-escalate crime there? Possibly set up booths in the Walmart parking lot featuring reps from various agencies to offer assistance to people dealing with addiction, or joblessness, mental illness, whatever problems are at the root of the trouble in the neighborhoods served by the Hudson Avenue Walmart? If BLM has made that kind of effort, great. I look forward to them rubbing it in Wegman’s face that it can be done, that if you have a store and stick by the city community, the community will meet you halfway, and you won’t be sorry.
But at the moment, BLM is across town protesting Wegman’s in a less dicey section of town.
The second bit of context to give to the lunacy in Rochester, is that Monroe County is having a worse experience in terms of COVID-related lockdowns than neighboring counties. I’m not sure you can separate the local BLM violence from kids being kept out of school and too many young people with too much time on their hands.
New York State is famous for the Covid-related BS that Governor Cuomo has put us through, but the uniquely painful situation for Monroe County residents may be due to their proximity to the University of Rochester and the affiliated Strong Hospital. The research university is, believed by some, in that camp that has seen vaccines as the most preferred solution to lockdowns.
Some, I’d guess, may say that it sounds like a conspiracy theory to believe that a research institute would delay schools reopening to force a vaccine solution. Maybe. But hold judgment until I tell you a little about The University of Rochester.
In the book titled The Human Radiation Experiments: Final Report of the President’s Advisory Committee there are a few provocative pages concerning the university’s participation in drug trials of a sort.
Have you ever been asked to participate in a drug study? Or seen flyers offering to pay people for their participation in a study? Sure. Well, it was like that. Except that no one at the University of Rochester told the patients they were part of a study, the patients weren’t paid, and were injected as part of the Manhattan Project with either plutonium, radium, or some other buttery chemical biscuit to see what effect the substance might have on them.
Some of the university’s patients were considered terminal prior to the drug trials and so thought of as disposable with no more than ten years left to live even under the best circumstances. Still, most subjects were chosen with the understanding that they were of average health. A quote from the book:
“As was the case at Oak Ridge and Chicago, there was no expectation that the patient-subjects at Rochester would benefit medically from the plutonium injections. The Advisory Committee found no documents that bear on what, if anything, the subjects were told about the injections and whether they consented. The recollections of at least some of those intimately involved have survived, however, and these recollections all suggest the patients did not know they had been injected with radioactive material or even that they were subjects of an experiment.”
So, yes, it’s all conspiracy theory until someone writes a book fifty years after the fact.
Strong Hospital, incidentally, is the same hospital that released a reportedly suicidal Daniel Prude from their care just hours before his fatal encounter with police. These doctors are not infallible, kids, they’re not infallible.
So, how exactly would the University of Rochester go about affecting Monroe County schools reopening? The parties you may think that can make the call to reopen Monroe County schools—the state, the county, school superintendents, or our commissioner of public health Mike Mendoza (who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine)—each have pointed the finger at the others as having the responsibility to make the call to reopen, as our schools remained shuttered. Is the circular, time-wasting blame game deliberate?
While speaking about the issue recently on a local podcast, two of the major voices pushing back against Monroe County school lockdowns discussed the situation, podcast co-host Chad Hummel and organizer of the Facebook group “ROC for Educational Freedom” Christina Higley:
Kimberly: So you’re telling us that there are school districts in other areas of the state, and other counties that are close to us – Orleans, Livingston, Onondaga County -- that are --
Christina: Long Island completely open.
Kimberly: -- that don’t have the – that can be three feet within each other (sic), or at least conduct themselves as kids in school –
Kimberly: -- but not in Monroe County?
Christina: Not in Monroe County.
Chad: And basically what we have is we have a game of point-the-finger between the superintendents, and Mike Mendoza and the county. And it just goes back and forth and back and forth, and then when they both get caught pointing the finger at each other, then the school districts, that’s where they turn, and they go back to pointing the finger at the state. They say we’re waiting for state guidance.
The deceptively simple scene of chalked slogans and protestors outside a supermarket have as their backdrop the black-on-black murders that happen across town and the idea that nothing in the area can go back to normal until everyone has taken a needle in the arm.