Thursday night was a tale of two groups with contrasting ideas on how to make change, clashing, after the death of Daniel Prude.
Rev. Lewis Stewart's group, the United Christian Leadership Ministry organized a conversation with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, and several members of City Council about the next steps to take in light of the death of Daniel Prude.
In March, Prude suffocated in the middle of Jefferson Avenue during an encounter with Rochester Police. He died a week later. Warren announced Thursday that seven Rochester Police officers have been suspended in relation to Prude’s death. The New York State Attorney General’s Office is investigating.
As the conversation began things quickly got chaotic.
“You hid the murder of Daniel Prude,” screamed Free the People Roc’s Stanley Martin.
Dozens of members of Black Lives Matter related groups took exception to Singletary’s presence and called him and the other police leaders with him “killers” and demanded he leave. He and several city councilmembers did leave. Stewart was shoved in the process. Justin Morris was involved with the scuffle.
“The clash that happened over here happened because the young people who came up here, knew the narrative that was going to be carried out here today and we weren’t going to be accepting it any longer,” said Morris.
Morris said to expect continuous protests which he anticipates will be peaceful.
“There will be no looting in the community this week. We’re taking that stand. There will be no looting in the community this week. We’re going to awaken the people in the community to what activism looks like. What a real voice in the community looks like surrounding the issues.”
Morris and other protesters say they’ve had enough of the Warren administration and Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary who they say covered up Prude’s death. Asa Adams wants change immediately.
“I’m sick and tired of this,” said Adams through a bullhorn. “Eventually we’re going to have to get this straight. We’re gonna have to get it clean. And we’re gonna have to do it now.”
But Reverend Stewart said change that’s not possible without dialogue.
“In order to push through change,” said Stewart. “You must channel that energy, that anger, into something that’s positive.”
Mayor Lovely Warren, County Legislator Vince Felder, and City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot stayed for the conversation. During an impassioned speech Lightfoot, who is a retired firefighter said, he’s all for changing who handles mental health calls but said you shouldn’t completely remove police from the equation.
“In the fire department they send us along with the police, to secure the scene, while the commission does their work. If something goes awry then they can come. Because all lives matter. The commission’s lives matter too. And they need to be protected.”
City Councilwoman Mary Lupien said Wednesday she is pursuing legislation creating a group of unarmed first responders dedicated to mental health calls.
Those protesters left Stewart’s event for another night near Prude’s memorial on Jefferson Avenue. Hundreds of them laid on the street face down as a version of Sam Cooke’s a change gonna come played before they kept marching.
Some of the protesters continued their march downtown to the Public Safety Building where they were met with pepper spray and pepper balls. The standoff which involved hundreds of demonstrators facing off with police in front of the building lasted into early Friday morning.