Protesters who had camped out overnight Sept. 15 on Church Street at City Hall were met on the morning of Sept. 16 by Rochester Police who instructed them to clear the street to allow access to City Hall.
Dozens of protesters stood about 20 feet from a line of police for about two hours. Periodically, police would announce that the protesters needed to move back to allow people into City Hall, and if not, protesters would be arrested.
The standoff moved toward resolution around midmorning as Rev. Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church came to the scene and helped broker a resolution.
Brown, who introduced the idea a couple of weeks ago of having community elders monitor the protests to help keep calm, met for several minutes with an RPD commander.
Brown asked that the city crews coming to clean the outside of the building of graffiti and posters bring the protesters’ tents and gear to the parking lot of her church, around the corner at 121 S. Fitzhugh St. She said that once the cleanup was finished, protesters would be able to return to the sidewalk.
Brown said police initially were moving people off the sidewalk. “They have the right to protest,” she said.
Rochester Police announced later in the day that 16 people were arrested for disorderly conduct.
Protesters said they spent the night playing Frisbee, playing cards and being peaceful. There were sleeping bags and tents alongside Sister Cities Garage and on the steps of City Hall. The building also had rows of “Wanted” style photos of Mayor Lovely Warren, District Attorney Sandra Doorley and Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo printed with calls for them to resign. The building also was marked with red handprints, which protesters said represented blood on the hands of the mayor.
Sept. 16 marked two weeks since the public learned of the death of Daniel Prude in March, and protests have taken place nightly. On Sept. 14, Mayor Lovely Warren released a report from Deputy Mayor James Smith about how the police and city handled the death. The report contained emails from RPD leadership that continue to raise questions about police conduct in the death and the internal investigation. The Monroe County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Free the People Roc organizers Adrian Elim and Ashley Gantt said protests would continue until the officers shown on body camera footage restraining Prude are arrested and charged.
“What we’re asking is not that far off the rocker,” Gantt said. “It’s not unreasonable. If they can arrest … protesters, they can arrest (Troy) Taladay, (Mark) Vaughn and (Francisco) Santiago.”
Brown said the community is hurting and the answer isn’t to punish people’s pain. She said the officers should be arrested and the community needs to “create models of compassionate public safety.”
She spoke as protesters were chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.”
“If not for these protesters in the streets, we would not be awakened to the reality that we need to fix our structures that have not served us for a very long time,” she said.
“This is not the answer,” as she pointed to police and protesters lined up across form each other.
“Perhaps we don’t believe in ourselves,” she said. “This is the moment to believe in ourselves and take up some moral courage and lean into the brilliance we’ve all been given to fix these problems. We have to stop thinking that our problems are bigger than the solutions we can bring to them. They are not.”
Below are more photos from the protest.