ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Police officers arrived at City Hall to break up the protesters who were on site since early Tuesday morning, to demand justice for Daniel Prude.
Over a loud speaker Wednesday morning, Rochester Police Department officers said failure to leave the area would result in arrests. Still, demonstrators remained on scene. According to protest organizers Free the People ROC, more than 20 people were arrested.
Rochester police later announced that 16 people were arrested for disorderly conduct in connection to the protest.
“We’re going to be here, this is not going to change anything,” said Free the People and NYCLU organizer Ashley Gantt. “It is our right to protest, it is our tradition as black people to protest. What we’re asking for is something that’s not unreasonable. If they can arrest 20 protesters, they can arrest officers Taladay, Vaughn, and Santiago.”
RPD officers surrounded the back of City Hall and blocked off State Street. The officers then walked the protesters down Church Street to clear the entrance of City Hall. Free the People ROC officials say local, state, and federal police advanced on sleeping protesters as city sanitation workers removed personal items.
“It doesn’t get any more peaceful than sleeping and yet RPD were in full riot gear, the
state police were called,” Gantt said. “This is traumatizing; we had families and
people of all ages there last night to be on the right side of history and to see this
response is, to see our sleeping bags held as evidence? This isn’t justice.”
Around 9:50 a.m. a counter-protester showed up shouting blue lives matter. The crowd cheered as police removed him and cuffed him.
At 10 a.m. protesters moved to the sidewalks to clear the road, but Gantt said they would remain at City Hall until all arrested protesters were released and their belongings were returned.
Police barricaded the street around 10:10 a.m. Behind the barricade, city crews began clearing the area by removing signs and paint put up by protesters, and picking up tents leftover from the night before — which were to be taken to Rev. Brown’s church nearby.
City sanitation crews continued to clean up the area as protesters looked on nearby. Around 11:30 a.m. police removed the barricades and left the area. Approximately 30 protesters remained then, some eating breakfast, before most ultimately dispersed.
Some demonstrators remained as the street reopened. Protesters put out free food and began doing yoga around 12 p.m.
City Hall protest photos
The Tuesday gathering began around 8:30 a.m. outside the Public Safety Building. From there, the group marched to City Hall, where they said they would remain until the officers involved in Prude’s death were fired, until Mayor Lovely Warren resigned, among more demands made.
Due to Tuesday’s protest, no one was able to gain access to City Hall, so city officials decided to close at 11 a.m. Officials say employees left at that time without incident and “those gathered outside continued to express themselves peacefully.”
Free the People ROC said their specific demands are as follows:
- The firing, prosecution and conviction of all seven officers involved; Mark
Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris,
Sgt. Michael Magri, Paul Ricotta.
- Drop criminal charges against all protesters arrested or charged since May 30th.
- The resignation of Mayor Lovely Warren, Deputy Mayor James Smith, District
Attorney Sandra Doorley.
- The removal of Mark Simmons as appointed Interim Chief of Police.
- Pass Daniel’s Law prohibiting police from responding to mental health calls. The
state must ensure that trained mental health providers respond to those who are
having a mental health crisis.
- Immediately end and prohibit the use of chemical weapons by RPD.
- Cut RPDs budget and reallocate resources into community-led services for true
public safety, education and ending poverty and root causes of violence.
- End the City of Rochester’s contract with the Locust Club.”
“We need to take action in light of Lovely Warren ignoring the demands of Daniel Prude’s family and activists in the community,” Free the People ROC organizer Stanley Martin said Tuesday.
Martin was critical of Warren’s selection of Mark Simmons as interim chief of police. She says Simmons shot a suicidal 13-year-old in Rochester back in 2005.
Free the People ROC Tuesday press conference
MORE | Mayor Warren: Chief Singletary out, city’s communication director, lawyer suspended, review underway
Daniel Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, arrived at City Hall around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to speak to the demonstrators.
“It goes back to the first press conference when I said it was a blatant cover-up,” Joe said. “I’m so tired of every politician — they study beating around the bush. They didn’t beat around the bush when they killed my damn brother, and they owe my family results.”
Protests for Daniel Prude have occurred for 15 consecutive days in Rochester — ever since news of Prude’s death became public on September 2.
Monday, Mayor Lovely Warren released a 323-page preliminary report into the Daniel Prude death and the ensuing investigations. While that document has been made public, City Council says it will conduct its own independent review of the matter. City Council officially approved resources for the investigation at Tuesday’s meeting:
The Mayor also announced that Monday was Police Chief La’Ron Singletary’s last day in the position. He announced his retirement last week, and was supposed to hold the office until September 29 to ensure a smooth transition of power. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons was later announced as interim chief of police for the next 30 days.
More shake-up at City Hall Monday as Mayor Warren also announced that the City of Rochester’s Communication Director Justin Roj, and the City’s Corporation Counsel, were suspended without pay for “failure to act, inform, and follow policy and procedures.”
MORE | WATCH: Footage of encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers before his death
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light on September 2, and now the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.
A federal civil lawsuit filed from the Prude family against the City of Rochester alleges there was an internal cover-up. Aside from Singletary, several other high-ranking members within the RPD’s command staff have also announced retirements.
Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.
Protests have been ongoing in Rochester since the news broke September 2.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.
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