Black firefighter alleges captain took him to racist party mocking Juneteenth

Black firefighter alleges captain took him to racist party mocking Juneteenth

By Chantal Da Silva

A western New York fire captain allegedly pressured a Black firefighter while on duty to go to a party that mocked Juneteenth with racist imagery and featured images of elected officials with spikes running through them, according to a legal filing.

The firefighter, Jerrod Jones, said the party took place last month at a private home in an affluent area in Rochester, New York, a notice of claim filed Thursday stated. The filing is a notice of intent to file a lawsuit.

Jones and two other firefighters went to the party after their captain, Jeffrey Krywy, allegedly told them they should all go, according to the notice of claim, which names the city and its fire department.

Speaking at a news conference outside Rochester’s City Hall on Thursday, Jones, a 14-year veteran with the Rochester Fire Department, said the experience “cut me very deeply.”

“I decided to speak up today because I have two children who maybe one day will aspire to be firefighters, and I don’t want them … I don’t want them to have to experience what I experienced,” he said.

“Traditionally, in the firehouse, we handle things like a family does — in-house. Things don’t make it out to the public eye. But every once in a while, something happens that can’t be handled in-house and this is one of those things. This is one of those times,” he said.

According to the notice, Krywy, “as the officer in charge,” had informed Jones and two other officers that he wanted to take the firetruck to attend a party located in the district.

“As a team, they always traveled together,” the notice said and so, they traveled to the party in uniform.

Jones “felt immediately uneasy, and his uneasiness intensified as he walked up the driveway and noticed a large cut out of former President Donald Trump,” as it is against department rules to attend partisan political events, according to the filing. But it was only when he turned the corner at the end of the driveway, bringing the backyard party into full view, that he “became completely shocked,” it said.

According to the notice, there were two large Juneteenth celebration flags decorating the lawn with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken prominently displayed in “an apparent use of the racist trope recycled by bigots to mock Black Americans.”

The filing further said that someone at the party also appeared to have been impersonating Monroe County legislator Rachel Barnhart acting in a sexual manner as the crowd taunted her, yelling sexually explicit comments.

Jones could also see “pictures of local democratic politicians on stakes across the grass around the backyard,” according to the filing.

At one point, “unable to leave and unsure of how to react,” Jones expressed to his fellow firefighters that he felt like he was in the film “Get Out,” the filing said.

Jones was eventually able to leave the party and later went to a superior to raise the issue and ask them to address it, the filing said. They said they would, but Jones was left shocked when he was assigned to work with the same captain for his next shift four days after raising the issue, prompting him to pursue further action.

The notice said Jones was on leave after suffering “emotional distress and fear of retaliation from Krywy and others.”

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