In solidarity with ongoing rallies in Rochester, NY, students and community members marched throughout the streets of Downtown Binghamton on Saturday night to protest against police brutality.
The rally and march, titled “Upstate Uprising,” began in a parking lot on the corner of Walnut Street and Main Street in Binghamton’s West Side at 7:30 p.m. According to the promotional flyer shared on social media, the event was organized by “some local [organizations], groups, freedom fighters and probably PLOT [Progessive Leaders of Tomorrow].” Those running the event maintained it was more of a community-led action as opposed to being the idea of a single group.
The march was in support of the ongoing Rochester protests for Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man killed by two police officers after a mental illness call. Although Prude was killed in March, body camera footage from Prude’s death was made public recently by Prude’s family, sparking protest. Salka Valerio, 35, of Binghamton, and a member of PLOT, expressed solidarity with Rochester as the motivator for Saturday’s protest.
“The motivations for tonight was really to support Rochester and uplift what they’re doing there because not all of their demands have been met yet,” Valerio said. “So we wanted to make Rochester know that they have other communities behind them, that support them and we want to see those demands met as well.”
Due to the protests in Rochester, the city’s police chief as well as several other high-ranking officials in the police department have resigned.
Before the march began, Valerio and two others who had traveled up to Rochester to protest recounted their stories. They talked about how the police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on them and other protesters there. Across the street from the parking lot, a motorcyclist revved their engine during the last speech, but was met with chanting from the crowd to drown out the noise. The motorcyclist left shortly thereafter and there was no other opposition except for a few silent people holding flags that read, “Blue Lives Matter.”
Valerio then led the group through the streets of the West Side neighborhood with chants such as “Out of your homes, into the streets” while carrying various signs and flags with Black Lives Matter messages.
The Binghamton Police Department (BPD) and New York State Troopers were present at the event, using vehicles to escort the crowd and block side streets. Since this was not asked for by the organizers, efforts were made to direct the marchers around the police cars in order to march without police assistance.
After marching throughout the West Side, the protesters crossed the Court Street Bridge into Downtown Binghamton. At City Hall, police officers were stationed on the sidewalk in riot gear. This led to chants of “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”
The crowd stopped at this point to have more speakers address the group followed by an open mic where anyone could share. Nadezhda Blot, a sophomore majoring in cinema, talked about the optimism she felt at the protest.
“I am so proud to be a part of this community — to be a part of this generation — because we’re the ones that are going to do the change, we’re the ones that are the future,” Blot said. “It’s already happening and we’re going to keep working till it’s finally there.”
After the speeches, the group marched back up to Walnut Street and Main Street, bringing the event to an end around 11:00 p.m.
Valerio shared her thoughts on the event at the rally’s conclusion.
“I think tonight went very well,” Valerio said. “It was a really good turn out, it was high-energy, we got some people out of their homes and out into the streets. There were some people at the bar that actually joined us as well. So I think it went really well and I think the community is starting to see that this movement is important and it’s not going to die down unless justice is being served and you know, ‘All lives don’t matter until Black lives matter.’”