Naked protesters demand action after Daniel Prude’s killing

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Naked except for “spit hoods” in a reference to the killing of Daniel Prude, several protesters sat outside Rochester’s police headquarters Monday morning to push for police accountability, local news outlets reported.

Photos and video showed roughly a half-dozen demonstrators, naked or in minimal clothes and some with “Black Lives Matter” written on their backs, sitting silently with their hands behind them, on a rain-slicked street outside the city Public Safety Building. The Democrat & Chronicle reported that after a time, the demonstrators were given blankets and left in cars.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted that Rochester was among cities that had “bad nights,” while Mayor Lovely Warren commended activist leaders, police and community elders on a night of calm protest Sunday.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died after police found him running naked in a street March 23, put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

His brother, Joe Prude, had called 911 seeking help for Daniel Prude’s unusual behavior. He had been taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation earlier that night but released after a few hours, his brother told officers.

His death sparked outrage after his relatives on Wednesday released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request.

Seven police officers were suspended Thursday, and state Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct an “exhaustive investigation” into Prude’s death. Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary have faced calls for their resignations over the delay in releasing details of Prude’s death.

Police union officials have said the officers were following their training.

Protesters have demanded police accountability and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies.

Nightly demonstrations continued Sunday, when police said more than 1,000 protesters marched to the Public Safety Building.

Previous nights’ demonstrations intensified into clashes between police and protesters, with officers dousing activists with a chemical spray and firing what appeared to be pepper balls to drive them from barricades around the headquarters building. At points, fireworks were shot off and a bus stop was set ablaze.

Local media said there were no such confrontations Sunday night, when community elders served as a buffer between protesters and police. The Police Department said no arrests were made.

“Last night the world saw the true spirit of Rochester,” Warren said in a statement, adding that she had told the police department Sunday “to adopt a smaller and more restrained posture.”

Trump, however, mentioned Rochester in a Monday morning tweet about cities he said “all had bad nights” and were “weakly run by Radical Left Democrat Governors and Mayors!”

“Get the picture?” the Republican president added.

Warren, a Democrat, urged people to ignore Trump’s comments, accusing him of trying “to bait people to act with hate and incite violence that he believes will benefit him politically.”

This summer, Trump has repeatedly portrayed Democratic mayors as weak leaders who have let their cities be overrun by violence and disorderly protests, casting himself as the president of “law and order” who will protect the country from chaos.

Shootings, killings and other crimes have increased this summer in cities including New York, Chicago and Detroit, though crime overall remains lower than it has been in years past.

Trump has sought to tie street violence to protests. Criminal justice experts say the crime spikes defy easy explanation in a year with historic unemployment and a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 people.