Early Wednesday morning police officers clad in riot gear from the Rochester Police Department in New York moved in to forcibly remove Black Lives Matter protesters from City Hall one day after they took over the building.
Police surrounded the back of City Hall, blocking off State Street and Fitzhugh streets as approximately 100 protesters continued to block the seven entrances to the public building.
Officers threatened to arrest protesters who did not disperse after they blocked vehicular and pedestrian traffic. They ordered people in the area to leave or face arrest.
“Employees and citizens need to access City Hall,” one officer told the crowd over a loudspeaker. “You are blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic to City Hall. You are hereby ordered to clear the street and sidewalk. Failure to disperse from the sidewalk and street immediately will result in your arrest.”
A dramatic scene unfolded as Reverend Myra Brown, well-known local activist from Spiritus Christi Church, started negotiating with police. She called for all unarmed members of the protesters to raise their hands as a show of peace.
By 10:30 a.m. police had arrested 20 protesters while others said they intended to wait on the sidewalk for everyone’s release. Police began erecting metal barricades to stop protesters from accessing certain areas in front of City Hall.
More than 150 people converged early Tuesday outside the Public Safety Building and marched to City Hall. The organizers, Free the People ROC, threatened to remain outside the building until police officers involved in Daniel Prude’s detainment and death in March are arrested and fired and Mayor Lovely Warren resigns. They also had a long list of additional demands.
“We need to take action in light of Lovely Warren ignoring the demands of Daniel Prude’s family and activists in the community,” said organizer Stanley Martin.
She objected to Warren’s selection of Mark Simmons as interim chief of police because he shot a suicidal 13-year-old in Rochester back in 2005.
Rochester police bodycam footage was released earlier this month showing officers placing a hood over Prude’s head before pinning him to the ground, kneeling over his back and pushing his face on the pavement until he stopped breathing.
Prude was experiencing excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication according to the report. He died a week later in the hospital.
The protesters blocked entrances to the building, denying city officials access who were arriving for work and declared that they planned to continue their sit-in for “as long as it takes.”
Officials said employees left without incident and “those gathered outside continued to express themselves peacefully.”
Protesters camped overnight in tents and sleeping bags on Church Street and sidewalks outside City Hall. Others slept on the pavement, or in folding camp chairs and several set up fire pits.
They parked their vehicles as a barrier at Church and Fitzhugh streets for added protection against traffic.
Protesters also removed the American flag and the New York flag from outside City Hall and replaced them with a Black Lives Matter flag and a Pride flag.
RPD allowed some protesters to pick up overnight gear, including tents. Officers told protesters that the barricades will come down and protesters will be allowed to stay at City Hall as long as they don’t block entrance to building.