Peaceful Rochester protests march on despite heavy police presence
Rochester protests march on despite police presence
ROCHESTER — The sound of chanting, singing, drums, and horns echoed through downtown streets Friday as protests began for the 10th consecutive night.
“How do you spell racist?” organizers shouted over megaphones. “R-P-D!” the crowd chanted back. The call and response continued: “How do you spell fascist? R-P-D! How do you spell murderers? R-P-D!”
The protests drew hundreds of people, who marched from Martin Luther King Memorial Park to the Public Safety Building to demand justice for Daniel Prude, a Black man who died in Rochester Police custody following a mental health call in March.
Friday’s march was a return from a reprieve the night before when hundreds of attendees joined Prude’s family in celebrating his life — complete with music, food, and live performances. But many protesters Friday came equipped with bike helmets, safety goggles, filtered masks and some even carried homemade shields.
Despite being prepared for a potential standoff with the police, tensions never reached a breaking point, similar to the many peaceful nights of protests in Rochester earlier in the week.
On Friday night, the crowds dispersed at approximately 11:30 p.m., a stark contrast to the escalation that occurred the previous Saturday when protesters and police clashed. Protesters were actively attempting to prevent escalation with the police, even holding back and discouraging someone who attempted to jump the barricade in front of the Public Safety Building Friday night.
At the beginning of the evening, at approximately 7:30 p.m., organizers spoke to a crowd of nearly 500 people, reiterating their demands of Mayor Lovely Warren and District Attorney Sandra Doorley to resign. They also called for the passage of Daniel’s Law, which would establish a mental health task force trained with de-escalation tactics to answer distress calls.
Friday night’s crowd was smaller than nights prior — compared to the approximately 1,500 attendees last weekend — but despite the dwindling numbers, protesters’ spirits remained high.
While the crowds marched through Rochester around 9:30 p.m., cyclists rode ahead to create traffic barricades to ensure safe passage for the marchers across busy streets. As they crossed South Clinton Avenue, cars honked and a brigade of motorcyclists revved their engines in possible support or threat to the passing crowd. Passengers in one stopped car climbed out the car windows with cheers and raised fists.