Rochester Erupts in Protest After No Police Charged In Daniel Prude's Death

Protests erupted in Rochester, New York on Tuesday night after a grand jury declined to indict the police officers involved in Daniel Prude's death.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, was suffering from a mental health crisis when Rochester police officers placed a spit hood over his head and pressed his face into the pavement in March last year. He died a week later.

His death sparked outrage and protests after body camera footage of the encounter was released in September following a campaign by Prude's family.

Prude's name joined George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others as a rallying cry for racial justice protesters demanding police reform and accountability.

“We are on a mission” - protesters head downtown toward blue cross arena #DanielPrude protest pic.twitter.com/yNlz2if7PH

— Rob Bell (@byrobbell) February 24, 2021

Protesters climbing over barricades at Public Safety Building. RPD guarding entrance #DanielPrude protest pic.twitter.com/0SssHSfnZL

— Rob Bell (@byrobbell) February 24, 2021

On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that a grand jury had decided against criminal charges for the officers involved in his death.

James said she had to respect the grand jury's decision, but called for serious reform of a criminal justice system that "utterly and abjectly failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him."

The decision didn't surprise many Black people. Local activist Danielle Ponder likened it to Groundhog Day when speaking to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

On Tuesday evening, large crowds of people gathered in Rochester to march in protest at the lack of accountability for the officers.

Videos posted on social media showed protesters carrying Black Lives Matter flags and signs saying "no justice, no peace" as they marched.

A clip posted by Rob Bell, a reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle, showed a person atop a vehicle chanting "we are on mission" as the protesters headed downtown.

Bell reported that when they reached the Public Safety Building, some protesters climbed over barricades.

In a statement, Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the officers will remain on leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Herriott-Sullivan also urged those out protesting to remain peaceful. "I understand the community's collective pain in this moment and respect their constitutional rights to peaceful and lawful demonstration to express their feelings about the Grand Jury's decision," Herriot-Sullivan said.

"However, it is critical that the lives and property of all are also respected and safeguarded. Our primary goal is to maintain public safety and to keep the peace. We ask that anyone wishing to demonstrate refrain from committing acts or violence or crimes."

Outside PSB pic.twitter.com/Ne2vPXqFos

— Gino Fanelli (@GinoFanelli) February 24, 2021

Protest is over but more are planned "everyday (above freezing)" pic.twitter.com/68EHIf43tK

— Gino Fanelli (@GinoFanelli) February 24, 2021

Rochester City News reporter Gino Fanelli tweeted a picture showing someone had graffitied the words "clean the pig pen" outside the building.

Bell later tweeted: "There has been no violence throughout the demonstration tonight. Police have allowed all of them demonstrations to play out."

A video posted by Fanelli showed a protester declaring "it is not over" and that further protests are planned for every day that temperatures are "above freezing."

Prude's death isn't the only instance where Rochester police have been accused of excessive force. Just a few weeks ago, the department drew fire after body camera footage captured officers pepper spraying a distressed 9-year-old girl.

The Rochester Police Department has been contacted for comment.

Daniel Prude protest in Rochester, NY
Protesters march following the release of video evidence that shows the death of Daniel Prude while in the custody of Rochester Police in Rochester, New York on September 7, 2020. Maranie R. Staab/AFP via Getty Images