ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A group of protesters held a press conference Sunday afternoon, in which they expressed concerns over RPD actions this weekend during Daniel Prude protests. They said police are escalating what have been peaceful gatherings, into violent ones. Click here for the full conference.
The group calls themselves the Community Justice Initiative, and said they identify with Free the People Roc and Black Lives Matter movements. They say their group “is aimed at destroying systemic racism and white supremacy while empowering black folks through direct service efforts.”
Anthony Hall, one of the organizers, started the conference off by saying the Daniel Prude protests have a peaceful message, and a peaceful movement behind it.
“We start off singing, dancing, eating, fellow-shipping, meditating before we take off to march,” said Hall. “Last night was horrendous. We were met by a sub-military group. RPD militarized our peaceful community folk. RPD turned this thing into a war. Last night was a war setting, war zone, RPD did not let up at all,” he said.
Hall is referring to pepper balls and tear gas deployed by RPD, after isolated incidents of fireworks and bottle-throwing in the streets. Hall said those incidents are started by outside agitators.
“These pepper balls are supposed to be shot at feet, so they can impact the ground, not hitting people in the face. I was hit in my face with a pepper ball,” Hall said.
Also in attendance with the initiative was local defense attorney Leticia Astacio.
“If one person out of 3,000 people throws a water bottle at an officer in riot gear, and you think that means he can attack me with chemical warfare, you are insane and you’re not the type of person I want to talk to,” said Astacio.
Protesters in the initiative said they will continue to protest every night, until justice is served. They’re asking for city officials and RPD to hear their frustrations from previous nights, so they can continue to protest their message, peacefully.
Following the Community Justice Initiative discussion, Mayor Lovely Warren and Chief Singletary held a conference of their own. In it, they discussed the Daniel Prude investigation, as well as an action plan for city church elders to act as a physical buffer zone between RPD and protesters moving forward. Other topics discussed included police reform, questions of resignations, and more.