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On anniversary of Daniel Prude's fatal encounter with police, demonstrators march through Rochester to continue calls for justice

It's been one year since police in Rochester, New York, were called to help Daniel Prude as he was experiencing what his family called a mental health crisis. The officers' actions, however, ultimately led to his death, according to a medical examiner — and on Tuesday, what activists are calling "Daniel's Day," dozens in the city where the fatal encounter occurred are continuing their calls for justice. 

Familiar cries of "no justice, no peace," echoed throughout the day's marches and rallies as people pleaded for the police involved in Prude's death to be held accountable. 

Prude was a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago who was visiting his family in Rochester at the time of his death. His family had called the police on the night of March 23, 2020 to help Prude in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Video of the incident shows Prude being handcuffed as he was lying naked on a snowy street. Prude starts yelling at the officers and, after managing to sit up, the officers could be seen fitting him with a "spit hood," a barrier intended to protect police from body fluids. Prude continues yelling at the officers, who then pull him back to the ground. One of the officers then pushed Prude's head into the road and held it down for three minutes. 

Prude was unresponsive when medical personnel arrived. An officer said he was vomiting "just straight water," while another pointed out that Prude's chest was no longer moving. Paramedics performed CPR, and Prude was put onto a gurney and taken to the hospital. He was eventually declared brain dead and a week later he was taken off life support. A medical examiner said he died from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint." 

Last month, a grand jury decided that none of the officers involved should be charged. 

Joe Prude, Daniel Prude's brother, helped rally people for Tuesday's demonstrations, saying in a video message that the day should be a time of "no school, no work." According to CBS affiliate WROC, the demonstrations started with a rally at 8 a.m. From there, dozens marched through downtown Rochester. 

DANIEL’S DAY. THIS TUESDAY 3.23. NO SCHOOL. NO WORK. We join the Prude family in calling for a day of action and remembrance on the one year anniversary of Daniel Prude’s murder by the RPD. Call out of work, walk out of class, and join us in the streets to demand justice for Daniel Prude! 8am - Rally at Parcel 5 5pm - Celebration of Life at 72 Child St. Stay tuned for updates throughout the day. . We also encourage folx across the country to join us in #solidarity for #DANIELSDAY #noschoolnowork #justicefordanielprude #celebrationoflife #nojusticenopeace

Posted by Free The People Roc on Sunday, March 21, 2021

By 11 a.m., the activists stopped at a local Wegmans grocery store, where video shows them writing messages on the parking lot concrete with chalk. While some of the messages were directed at police, many of them echoed the calls for justice that have been prominent over the past year, saying "Black lives matter," "Say their names," and "justice for Daniel Prude." 

WROC reporter Atyia Collins tweeted that the demonstrators gathered at the location because "uniformed RPD officers are used as security in the stores" and that the activists wanted to "disrupt commerce."

"We want to make sure that when we're disrupting traffic, when we're advocating and raising our voices, we're not singing to the choir," Ashley Gantt, a Free the People ROC organizer, told WROC. "When we do it in our communities, we're singing to the choir because we are the people being brutalized — our people know — it's these folks in these communities that don't know."

Wegmans closed down the building, locking shoppers inside for a short period of time when demonstrators arrived. According to those on the scene, the shoppers were let out of the building through doors other than the main entrance. The location later announced it would close for the remainder of the day.

"Our East Ave. store in Rochester, NY is currently closed due to protest activity taking place outside of the store," Wegmans tweeted around noon on Tuesday. "At this time, no customers remain in the store, and the doors will remain closed. Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers."

By 4:30, the demonstrators left to hold a celebration of life for Prude at another location.

The demonstrations in Rochester recently found renewed energy following the death of 29-year-old Tyshon Jones, who was fatally shot by Rochester police on March 10. Jones' family has said that Jones was suffering from a mental health crisis after recent deaths in the family. Police said Jones was holding a knife and had made threatening statements during the incident. 

Victoria Albert contributed reporting.

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