WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Geneva Group Brings Activism and Support to the Courtroom

Jul 12, 2016

Tools for Social Change
Credit Michelle Ernst Modera / Tools for Social Change

On the afternoon of June 6th, a fight among several juveniles in the Geneva General Hospital parking lot swelled to an altercation that included more than 50 and spilled onto North Main Street. In all, 17 Geneva Police Department officers and Ontario County Sheriff’s deputies were called in to restore order. Two people were taken into custody on the scene. Two days later, five Geneva High School students were arrested and charged with first-degree riot, a felony.

As those young people have had their initial hearings, representatives of the local group Tools for Social Change have been in attendance. The Reverend Donald Golden is the pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, which hosts the group’s weekly meetings.

"Several individuals from Tools have decided to organize and to go in, just to be a witness to the proceedings and not have these young people feel so alone because it's a difficult situation."

One of the concerns the Reverend Golden raises is the impact a felony conviction can have on the future of young people. He says that in cases where they have not faced previous problems with the law, they need guidance rather than prosecution.

"All of these children need our love. They need our direction. We have to be willing to provide that for them."

Members of Tools for Social Change have met with the families of the young people who have been charged. They are attending the hearings at with the families permission.

"If they feel like what we're doing is not warranted, we will back off. We only do what we are allowed by them to do. It's not the other way around. We're not telling them they have to let us be involved," says Golden.

Tools for Social Change has reached out to a variety of individuals involved in the case including city and county officials and officials with the Geneva School District. Members of the group plan to attend the court hearings on an ongoing basis.

This story has been updated since it first aired to indicate that members of Tools for Social Change will attend court hearings on an ongoing basis.