Victim’s friends, family upset by removal of memorial

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Family and friends of Jasmine Finch held a small protest outside the Fort Stanwix National Monument Monday evening, upset that the City of Rome had taken down their makeshift memorial to the young student.

Finch, age 20, was killed in a drunken driving crash outside the fort at the intersection of Black River Boulevard and East Dominick Street on May 21, 2020. Since then, family and friends have maintained a small memorial of pictures and keepsakes on the sidewalk at the intersection.

Workers with the city Department of Public Works took down the memorial on Monday and boxed up the pieces. Finch’s friend, Emily Dole, said the family was not notified in advance that the memorial was going to be taken down.

“Without our knowledge, the City of Rome unjustly ripped down the memorial and destroyed some of our belongings. We would have just liked a phone call or even a warning,” Dole said on Monday.

“If this had to be moved, we would have moved it ourselves rather than destroying our stuff and our memorial for our girl. We just didn’t think it was right.”

A small group of Finch’s friends and family gathered outside the Fort at about 7:30 p.m. Monday and held signs in protest of their memorial being taken down.

Dole said she was notified by the city ahead of the protest that the items from the memorial were being held for them at the DPW garage.

“Everyone went and took care of it. It was just a sign for everyone to remember her,” Dole explained. “It was a remembrance of, ‘hey, this happened, you’ve got to be cautious of what you’re doing. Don’t drink and drive’. For it to just be ripped down, we did not appreciate that at all.”

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said on Tuesday that the city had reached out to Finch’s family several months ago about taking down the memorial and moving it to a more permanent location. She said the family was notified of the city’s bench memorial program in city parks.

Izzo said the family asked if the memorial could stay up until after the drunken driver was sentenced, and Izzo said the city agreed.

Greish Ortega-Lebron, the driver, was sentenced on March 5 to four to 12 years in state prison for manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

Izzo said someone had moved pieces of the memorial onto a state-owned sign in the area and “that cannot happen.” So she said the decision was made to have DPW take down the memorial, since the sentencing occurred several weeks ago.

“We’re certainly not adverse to a memorial in a more permanent place,” Izzo explained. As for the makeshift memorial, the mayor said, “Everything has been boxed and preserved,” and the family is welcome to pick up the items at the DPW garage.

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