Protesters have taken to the streets of Rochester, New York, for the eighth consecutive night to demand justice for Daniel Prude, a mentally-ill black man who died after a ‘spit hood’ was placed on his head during arrest by police officers in the city.
Prude, 41, was arrested in the early morning hours of March 23 running naked through the streets of Rochester.
Handcuffed and sitting on the flood without any clothes on, he had a ‘spit hood’ placed over his head, and when officers tried to move him, kneeling on his back, he fell unconscious. Prude died March 30 after being taken off of life support.
The video of his arrest was released last week, after his family filed a request for police records, and protests – at times violent – broke out in the city.
After several nights of violent unrest, the demonstration of around 200 people on Wednesday night was largely calm.
Around 200 people took to the streets of Rochester on Wednesday night, police said
A rally in Rochester calling for justice for Daniel Prude was peaceful on Wednesday night
A crowd gathered outside the Public Safety Building, but there was no repeat of violence
Their protest came shortly after two of the protesters were charged with federal offenses over a rally on Saturday that turned into a riot.
Adam Green, 20, of Dansville, and Dallas Williams-Smothers, 20, of Rochester, were charged on Wednesday with obstructing and impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder.
During Saturday’s demonstrations, prosecutors allege rocks, water bottles and fireworks were thrown at officers.
Green was accused by prosecutors of being among a group that refused to leave the area after police declared an unlawful assembly, and using a shield he was carrying to strike an officer.
They say he then fought with officers and, while handcuffed, hit an officer in the head.
Williams-Smothers is accused of throwing a firework at Rochester police officers, and was found in possession of two commercial-grade, mortar-style fireworks.
If convicted, each defendant could face up to five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine.
Adam Green, 20, of Dansville, and Dallas Williams-Smothers, 20, of Rochester, were charged on Wednesday with obstructing and impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder
James Kennedy, U.S. attorney, said Green and Smothers’ actions were ‘remarkably dangerous’ and prevented actual change.
‘Your contempt, your hate and demonization of those who protect us, the police, is remarkably dangerous,’ he said.
‘Your violent actions and hateful rhetoric prevent from any rational dialogue about how to go about actually improving things.’
On Wednesday night a crowd had once again gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square in downtown Rochester.
After night fell, at around 9:30pm, the group marched towards the Public Safety Building (PSB).
Protesters waved flags, made speeches, and chanted for justice for Prude
Speakers urged the crowd not to give up the fight for justice for Prude and for police reform
Things were largely peaceful for most of the night, even as some tensions flared.
Protecting themselves with open umbrellas and homemade shields, the protesters yelled at the police, who stayed behind barricades, demanding justice.
Some protesters breached a first row of barricades – after other activists tried to stop them – then managed to get over the second line of defense.
Red paint was poured onto the floor outside the PSB.
Chants rang out into the evening, but there was no repeat of the previous nights of violence.
After half an hour the group left the PSB, stopping on Court Street for some speeches, then marched through downtown back to MLK Park.
The protests dispersing around midnight, and police later confirmed there were no arrests.
Previous rallied had ended with clashes between police and protesters.
On Saturday night, protesters and some elected officials reported officers fired pepper balls at close range, hitting people. Police said in a press statement that officers started firing pepper balls only after a protester set off a firework.
Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and three other leaders of the force suddenly announced Tuesday that they were retiring. Three others gave up top leadership positions and returned to lower ranks.
Daniel Prude, 41, from Chicago, died in Rochester following a March 23 arrest by police
Prude was naked and in handcuffs when the ‘spit hood’ was put over his head
Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the ‘spit hood’
Seven police officers were suspended Thursday, and state Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct an ‘exhaustive investigation’ into Prude’s death.
Also Wednesday, the head of Rochester’s police union repeated his call for Mayor Lovely Warren to resign in the wake of Prude’s death.
He said she has been ‘less than truthful’ about how the city and police department handled the case and has lost the confidence of officers and the public.
‘I think it’s clear to all who have seen the events of the last few days that there’s a need for change,’ Rochester Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo said at a news conference.
‘I think when we have a whole command staff walk out the door, I think something’s wrong.
‘I think too many people are involved in this that know the truth and for some of them that haven’t figured out the truth, I hope they learn soon.’