ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A protest in Rochester on Friday and into Saturday morning ended with 74 arrests, according to Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli.
Ciminelli said 112 officers were present, including state police and members of town police departments. No officers were injured and there was no property damage.
It took police officers about three hours to clear an area on East Avenue, where many of the arrests took place, beginning about 10 p.m. Friday and continuing into the early morning hours. Officers told the protesters that they were blocking the streets.
The protest over the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota began at 4 p.m. on Friday in an event organized by Black Lives Matter.
"The SWAT team and police came and everybody took a seat on the ground because we didn't want any of our movements to be misinterpreted as violence or trying to get aggressive or resisting arrest," said Ashley Gantt, one of the protest's organizers.
Police cordoned off part of the street with caution tape in an attempt to clear protesters from the roads and disperse some of the group from blocking traffic. Several arrests were made and the some of the people detained waited on the sidewalk in handcuffs before being loaded into a police van.
"There shouldn't have been any arrests because there wasn't anything wrong," said Aiesha Coleman of Rochester, who was part of the protest from the start. "We were peacefully protesting and sitting when (the officers) came ... We sat and stood our ground. They just started snatching people who refused to move to the side."
Officers in riot gear formed a line and ordered the crowd to "move back" while stepping toward protesters in unison. Protesters continued chanting and yelling at officers, some with megaphone and signs, as they backpedaled on sidewalks.
Groups of officers collapsed into various pockets and made arrests multiples times. Two women were brought to the ground and handcuffed. One of the women screamed at officers as they pushed her against a squad car. Ashley Gantt tried to calm those being detained. Gantt spoke to the women with a megaphone, instructing the detainees not to resist.
"Don't say nothing," Gantt instructed the women. "Sweetheart, you've got to calm down. We've been out here all day. Don't resist."
Two 13WHAM reporters were detained about 12:45 a.m. by police officers. Officers took the handcuffs off the reporters and released them minutes later. Mayor Lovely Warren and Ciminelli each apologized to the reporters.
By 1:20 a.m., most of the police cruisers left the scene but a small contingent was left to ensure no groups re-formed, according to Commander Joseph Morabito.
"We prepared for this," Gantt said. "I'm not disappointed because I wouldn't expect anything less from the police."