ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two civil rights groups, Community Justice Initiative and United Christian Leadership Ministry, came together on the steps of Rochester City Hall Thursday morning to call for the immediate firing and prosecution of the officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude.
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light Wednesday, and now the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
Prude’s death was ruled as a homicide by the Monroe County Medical Examiner and the autopsy report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior. Body camera footage of the March incident surfaced Wednesday, sparking protests and demonstrations throughout the city.
Community Justice Initiative representatives said protests would continue “non-stop” until justice is served. They demanded the immediate firing and prosecution of the officers involved, who have not been suspended. They also called for the resignation of Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary.
“Again, another innocent Black man, unarmed, was snuffed out by police officers,” said Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry. “This time it did not take place in another city, nor another state. It happened right here in Frederick Douglass city. We watched in horror at the video footage, which clearly depicted three officers who placed a bag over Mr. Prude’s head, twisted a knot in the back of his neck, which was essentially a form of strangulation.”
Activists called for the officers involved to be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law.”
“Anything less is a disservice to Mr. Prude a disservice to his family and a disservice to Black people and a disservice to this community,” Rev. Stewart said.
MORE | WATCH: Footage of encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers before his death
“This is about Black people that’s fed up, we’re tired,” said Miquel Powell, Community Justice Initiative. “Every time I wake up, there’s a Black person dying, whether it’s in Rochester or national news. We’re tired, man. The pandemic ain’t do nothing but shine a light on how oppressed black people really are. How in the middle of a national pandemic you got Black folks that still fighting for their rights? Everybody should be worried about the pandemic, but were worried about dying. So we’re fed up. We need to make sure those officers responsible are terminated today, and arrested today — no more waiting.”
Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry statement
Community Justice Initiative press conference
Present at Thursday’s press conference was local Black Lives Matter organizer Ashley Gannt, one of nine protesters arrested at the demonstration at the Public Safety Building Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing that we got arrested for standing along with a family who’s brother was murdered six months ago while his murderers patrolled the streets of Rochester yesterday,” Gantt said.
Rev. Stewart called for all charges for those arrested at Wednesday’s press conference to be dropped immediately.
“As to the brave young people standing beside me who were arrested, we demand that the charges against them be dismissed, because those charges are bogus and we need to get to the root of bad policing in Monroe County and statewide,” Rev. Stewart said. “The police need to be servants and protectors of the community and guardians — not Klansman.”
“The press conference should have been held March 24, the day after,” Powell said. “If you cover up a homicide for six months, I think that’s criminal, so of course they should resign because the people have lost confidence in them.”
The revered also announced a community meeting will be held Thursday evening, 6 p.m. at the First Church of God, 334 Clarissa Street. For more information on that meeting, contact uclmrochesterny.org or Rev. Stewart at 585-402-9785.
Rochester City Hall was evacuated for a “possible bomb threat” early Thursday, but city employees have since returned to the building.
A vigil was placed on Jefferson Avenue on Rochester’s southwest side, where Prude encountered police back in March before his death.
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will continue to provide updates as they become available.