By JOSHUA HOYOS, IVAN PEREIRA and MARC NATHANSON, ABC News
(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) — Rochester, New York police reported no arrests Sunday night after demonstrators protesting the death of Daniel Prude descended on the city’s Public Safety Building, a day after nearby demonstrations resulted in numerous clashes between protesters and police.
“The Rochester Police Department would like to thank our local and state law enforcement partners for their assistance and a special thanks to Dr. Myra Brown and a group of community elders for keeping the protest safe and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard,” the department posted to social media following Sunday night’s demonstration.
Police said on Sunday evening that about 1,000 people had come out for the fifth day of protests against Prude’s death at the hands of Rochester police.
Sunday’s demonstration came hours after Mayor Lovely Warren and the city’s police chief La’Ron Singletary called for calm following contentious protests on Saturday.
In a new tack, police on Sunday night allowed protesters to march up to the Public Safety Building (PSB), home to the Rochester Police Department, after previously barricading demonstrators about a quarter mile up the road, where clashes ensued between protesters and police.
Singletary said earlier Sunday that there was credible information that outside agitators want to destroy the PSB, but country legislator Rachel Barnhart, who was injured while attending Saturday night’s protests, told ABC News she thought Saturday’s protests only became violent after demonstrators encountered police at the barricade and suggested that allowing protesters to march to the PSB would curtail the violence.
On Sunday evening, a group of church elders boarded buses near City Hall to travel to the PSB in order to act as a buffer between protesters and the police in a move that city officials hoped would keep the protests peaceful.
“Let’s work together to keep everyone safe!” the police department tweeted Sunday evening, not long before demonstrators descended on the building.
Warren’s pleas for peaceful demonstrations came after police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse a crowd of over 1,200 people Saturday night. She stood by Singletary and the police department and commended them for their restraint during the last couple nights of protest, which authorities said included agitators from out of state.
“People from outside of the city like Alaska and Massachusetts have been arrested,” Singletary said.
The protests stem from last week’s release of body camera footage showing the March 23 incident involving Rochester police officers and Prude, 41. Prude’s brother Joe called 911 to get help, saying Daniel was having a mental health emergency.
In the video, which was first reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, officers approach Prude, who is naked, and Prude initially complies with the officers’ orders. Prude is subsequently seen shouting and spitting, which prompts officers to place a spit bag over his head.
The officers are seen pinning Prude to the ground while the bag is still on his head, and he eventually goes lifeless. Prude died in the hospital a week later.
Seven Rochester officers have been suspended with pay as New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office investigates the incident, which is part of New York state’s protocol anytime someone dies in police custody. On Saturday, James announced she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.
Protests that have taken place in the city since the news broke had become increasingly contentious between those involved and the police. Officers say they’ve been struck by bottles and rocks and have had to use pepper spray, tear gas and other weapons to disperse crowds during the demonstrations, including the one on Saturday night.
Three officers were treated for injuries related to fireworks Saturday and nine people were arrested after some in the crowd appeared to set off fireworks, according to the authorities.
At the same time, Warren acknowledged that the department and city should have done more to protect Prude.
“We have to own the fact that in that moment, we did not do that,” she said.
The mayor revealed that she first saw the body camera footage last month but could not take any direct action because of the investigation by the attorney general. She defended Singletary and his actions thus far in the investigation, saying that he’s done everything by the book and has not impeded or covered up the case.
“I wholeheartedly believe RPD Chief Singletary can lead us through this time,” she said.
In the meantime, Warren and Singletary said the city is already working to change the way the city responds to mental health emergency calls. The city will double the availability of mental health professionals and the police will review its measures in place for handling such emergencies, according to the mayor and chief.
“Certain calls shouldn’t be handled by police,” Singletary said.
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