Jasmine Finch was just 20 years old when she was taken by a victim of a drunk driving accident in Rome, New York. It happened at the intersection of Black River Boulevard and East Dominick Street on May 21, 2020. Since the accident happened, family and friends have been actively maintaining a small memorial of pictures and keepsakes on the sidewalk at the intersection. That was, until it was unknowingly taken down by the City of Rome.

Family and friends of Finch gathered for a small protest outside of Fort Stanwix on the evening of Monday, March 22nd, upset they weren't even notified in advance that their memorial was a problem.

According to the Rome Sentinel, workers with the city Department of Public Works took down the memorial 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,” said Doyle to the Rome Sentinel.

“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.”

She said she received a call the items were being held for pickup at the DPW garage for retrieval. But, no other prior notice was given.

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said on Tuesday March 23rd, 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. She also said the family asked if they could leave the memorial up until the driver was sentenced, and the city agreed.

Mayor Izzo said pieces of the memorial were moved by the state-owned sign in the area and that “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.

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

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Should the city have done a better job to speak directly with the family prior the the removal of the memorial? Maybe the family would have gone to pick up and box up the items themselves? Or was this this right move? Let us know inside our station app.

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