Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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About halfway up the avenue, between Clifford and Upper Falls, across from Big Momma Rose’s, was a car, some old sedan, the bullet holes marked by perpendicular pieces of evidence tape. The one in the quarter panel looked like it came straight on, the ones below like they ricocheted off the pavement. A spray of similar holes, each marked with its evidence tape, marred the building beyond the sidewalk.


               This was across from where the Spanish church was gathered, nicely dressed people, handing out tracts to cars they stopped in the streets, the pastor screaming “Jesus vive” through portable speakers that thundered for a block in every direction.


               This is Clinton and Siebert, one of the deadliest corners in Rochester.


               The Spanish church was there to invite people to Christ, the peace marchers were there to cast out the devil. The locals looked on and the TV cameras watched and the backed-up cars shouted words of encouragement and reached out windows to shake a hand or take a tract. In front of a stopped van, women in long skirts from the Spanish church gathered around a lady pedestrian and raised their hands to heaven asking God’s blessings upon her.


               Further up, at Clinton and Clifford, under the spire of St. Michael’s, a circle formed in the intersection, people joined hands, and an ex-junky in a Salvation Army uniform led them in prayer through a bullhorn. He works across town, in a little ministry, him and his wife, the two of them former addicts, telling others how God can lead them to safety and sobriety.


               From there the line straggled back south, the bullhorn talking about Jesus or talking about guns, with a stop for a prayer at every block. In front of the Father Tracy building, named for Rochester’s apostle to the Hispanics, a young man sat on the sidewalk, his back against the wall, his eyes bleary and his movements slow. His head drooped and rolled. The pastor of the Ark of the Covenant Church of God by Faith knelt beside him and said some quiet words to him. Then he held the young man’s hand and bowed his head and began to pray, a circle quickly gathering around them, arms reaching to touch the young man, those who couldn’t reach him touching the shoulders of those who could.


               Four young men sat or stood in front of the Valero from hell. Two of them were smoking marijuana. They were the glowering face of North Clinton. And two of the marchers made right for them, walking up to shake their hands, to tell them to be careful, to wish them well, to hand them a pamphlet about Jesus paying the price for their sins because he knew them and loved them. They each broke character, the shell cracked, the handshakes sincere, the eyes making contact. Thank you, they said, you too. Not predators or gangbangers, but boys, maybe lost boys, but boys nonetheless.


               Eventually the march worked back to Clinton and Siebert, by the Don Samuel Torres Park, where there have been two mass shootings in the last month, where you cannot stand where there has not been blood. The anti-violence folks and the people from the Spanish church joined in sermonizing and prayer, the pastor with the heavy accent shouting into the microphone to the police watching from their cars that they were God’s soldiers, and that the church prayed for them every week and the people prayed for them every day, that the people loved them. That’s what the pastor said. Then he and a couple of others prayed.


               A child behind the rostrum closed his eyes and bowed his head, the county executive candidate in the crowd went to one knee, the lone elected official present – a county legislator spurned by her party – raised an arm to heaven. The guy who rode his bicycle across town to make the march raised his outstretched palms heavenward and the people in the cars looked on reverently.


               Then the big cop started to run. He was getting something. Not a cop, really, but a deputy. The chief of the deputies. The brass out showing the flag. And then he ran back and bent down. It was him and a tall old man who used to be a Black Panther, by the fence, where that one guy bled out last year. They were moving quickly but resolutely, something on the sidewalk, the white man and the black man, it was a woman, limp and lifeless, and the cop gave her the Narcan while the Black Panther held her up, brothers in service.


               And it worked.


               They saved her life.


               And they talked to her as she regained consciousness and began to comprehend, the chief giving her water, just a little, he said, just enough to wet your lips. The other man was talking to the crowd. You aren’t used to seeing this, are you, he said. Watch this, you aren’t going to forget this. And they stayed there with her as the fluids came from her mouth. The Black Panther calming and encouraging her, the cop watching her medical status. And it was that way until the AMR ambulance came and the two groups parted and the marchers continued on to the McDonald’s where the county executive candidate bought everyone McFlurries.


               Then they went home.


And that’s what happened last night at the anti-violence march.

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