Activists affiliated with the group NYC Shut It Down gathered at Grand Central Terminal on Monday evening, Sept. 14, to protest the death of Daniel Prude, who was killed by Rochester police in March. Though the protesters planned to shut down the terminal, the NYPD blocked the entrance, telling confused commuters that there was no entry without a ticket.
“They shut it down for us,” remarked one amused protestor, standing in front of the half dozen police officers barricading a 42nd Street entrance.
There have been protests in Rochester every night since Sept. 2 — ever since attorneys representing Prude’s family released body-camera footage showing officers pinning a hooded Prude to the street. Early in the day on Sept. 14, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren relieved Police Chief La’Ron Singletary of his duties. The NYC Shut it Down protestors, who began their march with demands of justice for Prude, George Floyd, Eric Garner and more, were not impressed.
“That’s all well and good,” said protester Nate Chase, referring to the ousting of the police chief, “but whoever replaces the police chief will also be a white supremacist murderer.”
Chase helped organize the Daniel Prude People’s Monday Memorial, NYC Shut It Down’s weekly campaign to highlight a new victim of police violence.
“We’re gonna continue to fight to make sure the officers involved lose their jobs, are tried and convicted,” Chase said. “But beyond that, it’s about the larger struggle against racism in the United States, against police brutality, and that’s a struggle that involves more than just one cop or one killing but an entire racist system that has to be defeated.”
Prude was hospitalized on the day of his death over concerns he was suffering a mental breakdown, according to WHEC news. Later that night, police responding to a wellness check put a hood over naked and unarmed Prude’s head and pinned him to the ground until his pulse stopped.
The now-infamous body camera footage of Prude’s death strikes close to home for activists like Felix Guzman.
“Having almost been wellness checked to death, I’m here to express the concern that situations that involve mental health and drug use are a public health issue and should be treated as such,” Guzman said, as he marched west on 42nd Street.
Guzman, who was formerly incarcerated and formerly homeless, is a member of other campaigns, such as VOCAL-NY, that seek to change the way police respond to wellness checks.
“Public health should not be criminalized,” Guzman said. “Until law enforcement is removed from crisis calls that are substance-related and mental health-related, we’ll still have situations like this where people lose their lives. As someone who has said ‘I can’t breathe’ during my wellness check, I want to add some lived experience to the narrative. I almost died because law enforcement was involved in a medical emergency.”
As the march turned south onto 6th Avenue, activist Gege Fortune stood with the protesters, holding a sign that highlighted a few of the facts of Prude’s life and death. In Fortune’s perspective, justice is a two-way street.
“Hopefully the ones who did this are brought to justice,” Fortune said. “We’re here in the hopes that the officers involved will be arrested, like any other citizen would have been arrested in this situation.”
Email Nick Mead at [email protected]