“It’s time for the call, it’s time for peace, all we want is peace in this world”
—Abdul Bounds, a freedom fighter in the City of Rochester
If you’ve seen him at protests, you’ve probably never seen his face, but you would still recognize his orange balaclava, homemade Black Lives Matter flag, and Black Panther jacket. He is almost always in black-out clothing, and his tall wiry frame often hunched to hide his height. Since the footage of Daniel Prude was released, Abdul Bounds has been at the front lines of the conflict. He’s faced pepper balls, tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets, and he wants to tell others: It’s time to do the same.
On Aug. 12, bodycam footage showing the homicide of 41-year-old Daniel Prude at the hands of RPD officers was released — more than six months after the incident occurred. Outrage swept through the city, rousing many to action. On Sept. 2, a group of concerned citizens known as Save Rochester — Black Lives Matter gathered in front of City Hall to protest, only for many of them to be arrested by Rochester Police. Bounds was among those arrested at the gathering in front of City Hall. His face was slammed into the ground as he was taken in, and he was held for over five hours before release. Bounds, however, was not discouraged in the slightest; later that day, he was at MLK park speaking out against the actions of RPD: “What do you want us to be doing? What do you want us to be doing? Selling drugs? Rioting? Shooting each other? We got into good trouble today.”
The next evening, Bounds stood on Jefferson Ave, near the same spot Daniel Prude’s life was taken, staring out over the sea of people. Nearby, Rochestarian Asa Adams spoke to a crowd of reporters about his membership in the Black Panther Party and his hopes for the future.
“I’m here in Rochester very hurt and disappointed that the city government let this go on for 6 months without telling anybody […] University of Rochester, if you really want to make change, come out here to the real classroom; you’ll learn a lot more. Then take it back to your classes and discuss there.”
As Bounds watched on, a large square wooden pole with a Black Lives Matter flag rested over one shoulder. Bounds’ face was hidden by the orange balaclava. He didn’t know it yet, but less than 24 hours later, he would be given a charge by Adams to lead the people he currently stands among. Even before he bore that responsibility, he strove to call others into action. Where other protesters gave impassioned and fiery accusations against UR for its part in gentrification, or appeals to the human nature of the students to draw them down to the streets, Bounds gave a calm but heartfelt statement to the students at the University, speaking with practiced certainty: “I advise all students of color […] students of all races […] to come out and support. If not, the community will burn the fuck down. Until the officers have been arrested, we will not rest, there will be no rest.” Later that night, RPD fired pepper balls and tear gas at unarmed protesters outside the Public Safety Building.
The next day, Adams, who has been a member of the Black Panther Party since 1967 and is a prominent activist in the community, passed the baton of action on to the next generation. Bounds took this charge personally, when Adams gave Bounds his Black Panther membership jacket to wear. With these actions, Adams charged Bounds with continuing the work of uniting the Black community towards peace. He has described the work the Panthers did as “all about education, protecting our people and trying to hold the community together.” Bounds described the movement he is trying to build:
“This jacket was passed down to me at Jefferson Ave. after a candlelight vigil and it was pretty much given to me as a gift to the people … It’s my job to recruit my Black brothers or sisters; it’s not a war call, it’s a call to action, it’s an action to attack Black on Black crime, it’s time for us to come together as one […] It was the most important time of my life […] it’s time for the call, it’s time for peace — all we want in peace in this world.”
Bounds did not take his call to leadership lightly. On Sept. 6, he and Asa stood side by side with City Council member Michael Patterson in front of a line of police officers firing tear gas, pepper balls, and flashbangs while giving orders to disperse with a LRAD.
The morning of Sept. 15, several protesters were arrested by RPD while occupying City Hall. Protesters stood off against police until the situation was defused by Pastor Myra Brown. The people returned to their occupation as RPD left and conducted a yoga routine in front of City Hall. After de-stressing during the yoga, over his morning coffee, Bounds casually shared that he had recently lost his job for speaking out against racist practices at his place of employment, and that he was involved in a civil suit against his former employer.
As Bounds remained at City Hall, several counter-protesters arrived, demanding the American Flag the protesters lowered be put back up. While taking a moment’s break from standing off with a pistol toting counter-protester after verbally defusing the situation, Bounds gave some parting words to a Campus Times reporter before ensuring he left the area due to the danger.
“See the sign,” Bounds said, gesturing to a large sign with the people’s demands written on it. “Well, we’re over here until justice is served. Let me tell you [UR], I been seeing your posts on your Instagrams and until justice is served she gotta go […] until those officers walk her up Exchange Blvd. in handcuffs, justice is not served […] Till the police is locked up [and] justice is served, unrest is gonna continue […] And again we ask the [UR] community to come out more again to help. I done seen a lot of you guys out here, but again, the more of you guys can participate, we would greatly appreciate it.”
Editor’s Note (10/6/2020): The previous headline mischaracterized Bounds’ role in the movement. Bounds is not officially an organizer. Additionally, a typo in a quote has been fixed.