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Chaos strikes Liberty Pole
Rochester, N.Y.The Rochester City Councilman who witnessed fighting and chaos at the Liberty Pole downtown Monday, wants to know what happened to a city school district plan that might have prevented the situation in the first place.
"I saw about 100 kids running. It looked like a scene from a movie," said Councilman Adam McFadden. "I witnessed a kid-he got punched in the back of his head. He fell down and they started kicking him. I ran over and pulled them off the top of him."
Councilman McFadden found himself in the middle of the ruckus, and now he wants answers.
The Rochester city school district uses RTS buses to get older students home.
The Liberty Pole is a transfer site for hundreds of students. Rather than getting off one bus and on to another on Monday, some students started a fight.
Someone fired a gun.
"When a big crowd comes rushing by, you get knocked over just by everyone being panicked," Says Gino Brown, who witnessed the scene.
Two years ago, after similar problems with fighting, the district changed its busing policy. Students who qualified for express bus service directly to their neighborhoods were not allowed to take regular buses downtown.
Transfer passes were limited to about 25% of the students.
"It changed two years ago and seemed to rectify the problem a lot," said McFadden. "I don't know what happened this year."
McFadden says the plan is either not being implemented, or it is not being enforced.
And that outs the burden on Rochester police.
"When the volume is high, the engagements that result in violence escalate," said Chief James Sheppard. "We have had solutions that have served us in the past."
Five people were injured in a crash as officers responded to reports of a shot being fired. It happened during the melee.
The district declined an interview, and has not yet responded to our questions about the use of express bus passes. In a written statement, officials expressed a willingness to work with police and city lawmakers.
McFadden has called for a meeting, but one has not been scheduled. Ultimately he says there need to be discussions about broader issues such as community schools.
He said using RTS buses may save the district money, but it didn't save taxpayers money, because they are paying for police response when issues like this happen.
Rochester City School District released this statement:
Police are still investigating the discharge of a firearm near the Liberty Pole yesterday, and we have no indication of whether a city school student was involved. The District works closely with RPD to deal appropriately with students who engage in violent behavior, whether it occurs during school or after hours. We also work with city government and community agencies on programs to increase school attendance, engage students in a longer school day, and transport children using express bus routes instead of transferring downtown. The District will continue working with City officials and the police department to determine whether additional steps are needed to reduce the potential for inappropriate behavior by students outside of school.