It’s been nearly a week since the harrowing footage of police killing Daniel Prude was released by his family, and protests are still ongoing. Many actions were held for Prude this weekend — but while some were marked by more police violence, one protest in Rochester was quiet and more symbolic, with participants who showed up almost completely naked to sit on the street, in the rain.
On Monday, six protesters sat outside of Rochester’s police headquarters — nearly naked — to push for police accountability. A list of demands for New York state was handed out, including their biggest ask: that police are no longer allowed to respond to wellness checks and mental health calls. Demonstrators were either fully naked or wearing minimal clothing posted on the ground outside of the police department with their hands behind their backs. Instead of clothing, participants wore only hoods on their heads. The garb was emblematic of the spit hood police used to suffocate Prude, who was also naked when he died.
Naked protesters in the rain in front of the Public Safety Building this morning pic.twitter.com/iQa150ovYM
— Tracy Schuhmacher (@RahChaChow) September 7, 2020
The action was held in solidarity with Free the People Roc, a local group that has continued to hold protests every day. Organizers with the group have said they will continue to gather and protest until their demands are met. “It doesn’t seem possible that humans could treat each other that way. I don’t understand how someone can see another human in that position and not feel compassion and want do whatever they can to help them,” said Paul Hypolite, a former Rochester resident and one of the six people who demonstrated.
After sitting outside without clothing, the protesters were then wrapped up in blankets and led away gently from the scene — an act symbolizing the care that Daniel Prude never got. Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died after police responded to a wellness check call from his brother. When police found him, he was running naked in the street. After putting a spit hood on him, they held him down for almost two minutes until he stopped breathing. The medical examiner stated that Prude’s cause of death was asphyxiation from police restraining him.
Since the video was released last week, the seven police officers who were at the scene and involved in killing Prude have been suspended. Today, Mayor Lovely Warren announced that the entire Rochester Police Department command staff, including Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, is resigning.
Warren has also said there will be reforms made in the police department, including moving the crisis intervention team to the city’s department of youth and recreation services. In addition, New York state Attorney General Letitia James said this weekend that she would form a grand jury to hold an “exhaustive investigation” into Prude’s death.
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