Editor’s note: This article is part of our continued efforts to cover the protests in Rochester. As we are students first, we are unable to capture everything, every night. For all of our News coverage on these events search the tag “Daniel Prude.”
On Sept. 6, a day after 70-year-old Black Panther Party member Asa Adams was struck by a rubber bullet, a wall of elderly Rochestarians — called elders and dressed in yellow crossing guard vests — spanned the street, dividing the other protestors from the police during the demonstration.
Before the march began, call and response chants of “We are elders” and “We support our youth” echoed through the street.
Behind them, a tall protestor with a handmade, plywood tower-shield ran defensive combat drills with the assembled shield bearers. He grabbed one by the shield and pulled forward suddenly, testing the strength of the shield wall. The shield bearer was immediately grabbed by other members of the barricade and held back. Nodding in approval, the man walked up and down the wall before stopping in front of another protester and shoving him shield-to-shield. This time the crowd surges forward to prop up their peer and hold him against the assault.
Despite getting hospitalization the night prior, Adams was discharged and back on the streets within a day, marching towards the Public Safety building.
“I cannot allow this to go on any longer, and I’m trying to ask all the seniors all across America [to] get in this movement,” Adams said. “We need you, your grandchildren need you, and definitely make sure you’re out here protesting for your great grandchildren […] because somewhere along the line part of my generation failed. My parents fought hard and we gained, but somewhere between me and today something happened, and I want it cleaned up.”
A single line of officers and a barricade met the protestors when they reached the Public Safety building. The protestors gathered at the barricade and chanted slogans of justice and peace.
New York Civil Liberties Union Lead Organizer Ashley Gantt addressed the crowd and praised their preparedness and willingness to show up despite being met with violence on Sep 5.
One of the elders shared his hopes for UR students: “To be a witness to the dignity and sacredness of nonviolent protest, and to be — hopefully — an element that uses anger without being run by it, without being consumed by it, but remembers its purpose for being here tonight […] To the students at [UR]: I would say use your privilege for justice, no matter your circumstances.”
When Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary resigned from his position on Sept. 8, protesters celebrated and reiterated their other demands to the city by painting “Black Lives Matter,” “Murderers,” and “Resign” on Jefferson Avenue, in front of the Public Safety Building and City Hall, respectively. In his resignation, Singletary called the protests “an attempt to destroy [his] character and integrity.”
“La’Ron left, and Lovely is next,” the organizers chanted, reminding the city and the world that the fight wasn’t over. Gantt reminded them over a megaphone that retirement and resignation are distinctly different, and that Singlertery was still receiving a pension.
“Great — one down, a lot more to go,” Gantt said when asked about Singletary’s resignation letter. In regards to the lack of violence in the previous nights, Gantt said that “what will happen will happen, [and] we will stay peaceful. The cops [are] the ones who always agitate and who have been agitating.”
On Sept 10, protestors gathered outside the Prude family’s home for celebration instead of marching. With his family attending, protestors sang and danced for the evening, listening to guest speakers, musicians, and poets performances.
As a part of the celebration, tables of food, much of it catered from local restaurants, were set up outside of the A&Z Food Mart. The majority of Daniel Prude’s family members had gathered, and Daniel Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, held his tearful father as each family member spoke.
Later on, Joe Prude stood with his father. As he spoke, his father stood next to him, pain and strength evident in his face.
“I look in my father’s eyes and I see the hurt […] but everybody looks in my face they say how you steady channeling that hurt. You know why I’m channeling that hurt? Cause I come from a bull,” he gestures to his father. “This is the man of the hour. They took his birthday present from him, same birthday, different time.” Daniel Prude and his father were born on the same day.
After the speeches ended, the DJ began playing music, and the crowd joined in, dancing along. This was the most relaxed the protesters had been since Thursday night.