Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said Sept. 6 that they are not going anywhere after protests that started peacefully but turned violent have filled downtown streets for four nights after the death of Daniel Prude became public.
The mayor also said she was not planning to dismiss the chief.
“I wholeheartedly believe that Chief La’Ron Singletary is the right person to lead us through these difficult times,” Warren said. “He was born and raised in this city, educated in this city, worked his way up to head the department he loves. I do not believe there is another person more dedicated to changing the culture of policing than La’Ron.”
Warren said both of them are committed to restoring trust and faith. Singletary said rumors that he had offered to resign were just that.
However, both also continued to be pressed at a news conference about details of what the chief told the mayor about the encounter with Prude on March 23, the extent of the officers’ actions, and the man’s death on March 30.
She said she welcomed the announcement from state Attorney General Letitia James that a grand jury would be empaneled.
The controversy over the timeline of when information was shared and the video showing Prude’s encounter with officers continues to fuel protests.
In an effort to calm tensions during marches, Rev. Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church said she would turn her church into a safe space and have respected community leaders serve as buffers between police and protesters.
The plan was to take effect at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 when another protest was planned. The church is at 121 N. Fitzhugh St.
“Mr. Prude’s death retriggered pain and trauma in this community,” Brown said. “It’s important when a community is grieving that they be given the space to grieve.”
Brown used the term elders, which led to the belief that senior citizens would be involved. However, the term later was clarified to mean people who are looked up to and not necessarily seniors.
She said it was her idea to involve community leaders.
“It’s important for this community to be able to protest safely,” she said. “I don’t know how long we’ll be protesting on the streets together,” she said. “But we’re asking for justice. Until justice is served, you need to make sure our young people are safe. That our college students are safe. That children who are marching are safe. We elders have volunteered to put our bodies on the line to make sure that happens because this community needs to unrestrictedly be able to walk these streets, be able to make the demands that they want to make and be able to go home without pepper balls and pepper spray in their eyes.”
Warren said the vast majority of protesters have “good intentions and pure hearts.” But as with the protests in May after the death of George Floyd, there was talk of outside “agitators.” However, when RPD announced arrests after the May 30 protests, the individuals were listed with local addresses.
In these protests, however, Singletary said police have arrested people who’ve given addresses in Alaska and Massachusetts. Singletary that that officers have been pelted with frozen water bottles and other debris. The police released video after one night of protests that showed what they said were commercial grade fireworks being thrown at officers. Warren said she and Singletary talked about the response to protesters.
Singletary said agitators target buildings such as Rochester’s Public Safety Building as symbols. The mayor said the PSB also houses the command staff of the fire department and the “nucleus of city operations.”
After the news conference, the Black and Asian Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature issued a statement that said in part:
” … we echo the sentiments of the community and city council in asking that law enforcement stand down and allow for peaceful protests. … This is a call to all levels of law enforcement, Rochester Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff, and State Police all who have been present on the scene of the protests. The tactics used to harm civilians is completely unconscionable. … Members of our caucus have been eye witness to some of these tactics. We believe the people deserve the chance to properly, peacefully protest and grieve and we stand with them. … “
At the news conference, the mayor also said the city was increasing the number of mental professionals and physically and financially moving the Family Crisis Intervention Team out of the police department and into the Department of Recreation and Youth Services. Singletary said the department would increase its alliance with the county’s mental health response team.
Both pledged that the death of Prude would change how policing is done in the city and that the next person who is in need of compassion receives that response.