Rochester: Protesters Demand Justice

Image credit: Roth and Roth LLP, via AP

Daniel Prude, a Black man visiting relatives in Rochester, New York, died at the hands of Rochester police after being arrested on March 17, 2020. His family has been trying to get justice ever since. It took nearly six months for Prude’s family to obtain a copy of the police video of his arrest. The video shows that police officers threw him to the ground, pressed down on his chest, and forced a so-called spit mask over his head. The combination of these brutal actions suffocated Daniel Prude. He was taken off life support five days later.

Back in March, Rochester Police claimed that Prude had died from a dose of PCP. In April, an internal police investigation exonerated the police. The coroner’s report, however, designated Prude’s death as a homicide, resulting from asphyxiation while held in a prone position. This report was ignored by state and local officials until the Prude family made the video of his arrest public.

New York state officials knew of the coroner’s report at least by June 6, but the New York State’s Attorney only started a grand jury investigation after the videos and coroner’s report became public. Rochester has been rocked by nightly demonstrations, sometimes numbering several thousand marchers. Police have attacked demonstrators with tear gas, baton charges, and barrages of pepper balls. Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested. Some have been hospitalized. And, doubling down on covering up to avoid accountability, Rochester police are taping over their badge numbers and names, a practice officially authorized by the Rochester Police Department.

As a consequence of public outrage, all of the top Rochester police commanders have resigned. But the cops directly involved in Prude’s death are still receiving their full paychecks while the investigations continue.

Is it any wonder more and more people are saying policing as we know it has to go? In Rochester, Kenosha, Portland, Louisville, Minneapolis, and hundreds of other places around the country in the last few months, people have taken to the streets and have gotten killer cops and their commanders fired, forced to resign, and even charged with murder for doing the brutal, racist things they have always done. Organizing our numbers to say, “No more!” is the only way to get even a little justice in this society.