WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Black Lives Matter Rally Coming to Geneva

Jul 21, 2016

The community group Tools for Social Change is sponsoring a Black Lives Matter in Geneva rally tonight, July 21. The Black Lives Matter in Geneva rally follows an event Tools for Social Change organized last week. The interfaith Genevans for Peace rally drew around 150 people who listened to speakers and joined together in song. Tools for Social Change’s Natalie Knott hopes to improve on that participation at tonight’s rally.

Genevans for Peace Rally in Bicentennial Park, July 14th, 2016
Credit Kelly Walker

“I would hope all Genevans would come to this rally. I would love to see 13,000 people there, people who are interested in having a conversation about how to make this community the most welcoming place possible. Geneva is this beautiful little city at the top of a beautiful lake. It’s a really special place and it should be a place where everybody feels welcome and supported because we’re 13,000 people. If we can’t support each other have a city that runs equitably for everyone, where can this happen?”

Black Lives Matter is a national movement, but without a central, guiding organization. Knott says that encourages local organizers to address the issues and concerns they face in their own communities.

“We are able to respond to issues as we see them in our community, not compelled to respond to issues nationally that might not be fully relevant in the City of Geneva. City of Rochester, City of New York City, City of Syracuse have different concerns than Geneva. And so the wonderful thing about the decentralized nature of Black Lives Matter is that it allows us to tailor our version of the movement to exactly what is happening in our town.”

What’s happening in Geneva that’s of immediate concern to the group is the arrest of five local teenagers of color who are facing felony riot charges following a fight that happened on the grounds of Geneva General Hospital and North Main Street in early June. Tools for Social Change has been attending the hearings of the students and the rally is timed as a further show of support.

“Black Lives Matter isn’t just about people who are murdered," says Knott "It’s about people who are having unjust, unsupported actions with the criminal justice system. I hear people say sometimes, well, they were just arrested, they were just charged. There is not just being arrested. There is not just being charged. Any time you interact with law enforcement as a defendant, as somebody who’s being arrested, that’s a traumatic event.

The Black Lives Matter in Geneva rally will feature speakers, live music and refreshments. It happens from 6 to 7 PM tonight, July 21, in Bicentennial Park in Geneva.