Rochestarians took to the streets in a second wave of protests on Tuesday following New York Attorney General Letitia James’ announcement that a Grand Jury had voted not to indict any of the police officers involved in the killing of Daniel Prude. The news comes nearly a year after Prude’s killing and only weeks after the RPD pepper sprayed a 9-year-old girl.
During the announcement of the Grand Jury’s verdict, James also released a full report on the incident, including a timeline of events, a legal overview, and her office’s recommendations for reform.
“I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will rightfully be disappointed by this outcome,” James told reporters on Tuesday. “My office presented an extensive case, and we sought a different outcome than the one the Grand Jury handed us today […] ultimately, we have to respect the decision.”
A few hours later, over one hundred protestors organized at the corner of Jefferson Ave and McCree Way, the same place protests started back in September, to demonstrate their disagreement with the ruling. The protest was organized by Free the People ROC (FTP) and was announced on their social media. Speeches kicked off around 7:30 p.m. by Anthony Hall, an FTP organizer.
“We can give all the speeches in the goddamn world,” Hall said. “We can do all the rallies in the world, but if Black folks’ Blackness is not lifted and Black folks don’t come together and build together and change the narrative, we’re gonna change nothing.”
Stanley Martin, an FTP organizer and one of “The People’s Slate’s” candidates for Rochester City Council, continued with her own speech.
“White supremacy protects white supremacists,” she said.“The system was meant to protect the white men, who do not live in this city, who killed Daniel Prude. It’s not meant to protect us; the system did exactly what it was meant to do.”
Demonstrators spoke on perceived failures of the criminal justice system, but also on potential fixes, like Daniel’s Law, a piece of state-level legislation that calls for regional and state councils.
According to FTP organizer Iman Abid-Thompson, these councils will be “made up of Black mental health professionals, social workers, peers, and other counselors who are going to actually implement programs that would remove law enforcement from these streets and from responding to mental health crises and substance-use calls.”
As the group marched north along Jefferson Ave towards the RPD Special Operations Division building, they met a line of temporary metal barriers, which demonstrators quickly scaled. Here on Child St. they stopped across from a line of police officers clad in riot gear. The protestors delivered more speeches and voiced frustrations to silent police officers, and local activist and Black Panther Party member Asa Adams announced his candidacy for Mayor of Rochester. There were no physical confrontations with the police who, after the 35 minute standoff, moved inside the precinct building.
Protestors proceeded past police cars onto the Westbound lanes of I-490, briefly marching alongside moving traffic. State Trooper squad cars quickly moved from their initial blockade to block a highway entrance, temporarily closing the highway. They marched downtown to the City Public Safety Building and, after crossing more temporary barriers, met another group of officers outside the entrance. The officers tried kneeling with the protestors, but the group rejected the demonstration. The officers moved inside the building, where other officers in riot gear stood. A number of speeches followed.
“It’s unbelievable how reserved we are right now, because this whole entire fucking city should be on fire right now,” said Sidy Grand, an organizer with Liberate All Black Lives (LABL), speaking over a bullhorn to the crowd. “Any other country — look at France. You can’t even raise taxes on them without the Yellow Coats coming out […] and turning cars over. They’re out here murdering us, and everybody in the state is conspiring against the people. Everybody!”
Grand also spoke on how people can help outside of organizing.
“We have mutual aid food stands going around. We have people paying each other’s rent. We’re feeding people, we’re housing people — it’s the people. The state is not doing shit at all. The city’s not doing shit at all. The county’s not doing shit at all. It’s the people using the people’s funds,” he said. “The best thing that people can do is send money towards these organizations. Take food and fill these food stands all around Rochester. Food Not Bombs, LABL, FTP, are all keeping people fed,” he told CT.
The crowd of protestors then moved up Exchange Blvd to the steps leading to the Monroe County Jail, confronting a line of Monroe County Sheriffs. The group continued voicing frustrations at the silent officers, one of which was armed with a less-lethal projectile gun. After about a 30 minute standoff, the protest began to dissolve around 11:45 p.m.
FTP organized a number of smaller demonstrations in the following days, including one at the Liberty Pole on Wednesday and another on Jefferson Ave on Thursday.
In conjunction with LABL, FTP, Community Justice Initiative, and Flower City Noire Collective also organized a “healing space” Zoom call on Sunday in lieu of any weekend public actions to acknowledge “that our community is hurting and [to prioritize] the mental health and healing of organizers, protestors, our medics, and the families impacted by police violence,” according to their Instagram account (@ftp_roc).
At the end of the evening, Grand spoke again. “We’re going to be back out here every fucking day. Every day.” A member of the crowd yelled back, “Every day it’s above freezing, y’all.”
To see more photos of this protest, click here.