Protestors Push To Drop Charges In Commons Incident

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The street outside the Tompkins County Courthouse in Ithaca was temporarily blocked Friday afternoon by protestors.

They chanted “Free Rose! Free Rose!”. “Back Up, Back Up!”. “We Want Freedom, Freedom!”. “Racist Cops — We Don’t Need ‘Em, Need ‘Em!”. “Black Lives Matter!”.

Speakers called for the district attorney to drop all charges against Rose de Groat, the women arrested during an altercation on the Ithaca Commons earlier this spring.

Over a hundred people gathered in support of de Groat. She and a friend were forcefully arrested by Ithaca police on April 6th.

Celia Clarke/WSKG

Rose de Groat (left) and Cadji Ferguson (right) outside Tompkins County Courthouse on August 26, 2019. Ferguson has been found not guilty of charges against him. De Groat has a trial in November. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG)

The friend, Cadji Ferguson, was recently found not guilty.

Phoebe Brown, one of the organizers, called the rally a protest against police brutality. 

“We no longer are going to be quiet about it. For a very long time we’ve been afraid,” Brown said. “And we’re going to keep coming back and so are the young people.”

One of the young people at Friday’s rally was Taz Rite who identifies as gender non-conforming and uses the pronouns they/them. Rite said they are always worried about personal safety and believes that their appearance makes them an easy target.

Rite is a junior at Ithaca College and a first generation Caribbean-American of African descent. The Commons incident and its aftermath have reinforced their distrust of the police.

“I view the police as people who are dangerous,” Rite said. “I view the police as people who are murderers. I do not feel safe or protected by them.”

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media

Taz Rite (left) stands next to Cadji Ferguson at a rally outside the Tompkins County Courthouse. September 20, 2019. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media)

Distrust of the police is one reason many at the rally believe change has to go beyond this particular incident.

“We have a system that’s worked against black and brown people for a very long time,” Brown said. “And this is an opportunity to show we’re united.”

Protesters continued to chant for over 30 minutes. The rally ended with people staging a die-in by laying in the street and blocking traffic.

De Groat has a trial date in November.