Lawsuit Filed Against Rochester and Its Police Department Alleges ‘Inhumane’ Treatment of Daniel Prude Protesters

Illustration for article titled Lawsuit Filed Against Rochester and Its Police Department Alleges ‘Inhumane’ Treatment of Daniel Prude Protesters
Photo: Michael M. Santiago (Getty Images)

From the death of Daniel Prude to the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old Black girl, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: The Rochester Police Department is trash.

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And because the department is showing itself to be a cesspool of excessive force and disregard for the dignity and wellbeing of Black bodies, a group of attorneys and activists filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the city and the police department alleging that officers have spent decades engaging in “inhumane” and violent practices against non-white citizens and, particularly, protesters.

“Simply put, a stunning historical record spanning more than four decades demonstrates that the Rochester Police Department’s use-of-force practices continue to be inhumane, racist, and antithetical to the functioning of a civilized society,” the lawsuit states, CBS News reports.

The lawsuit is reportedly close to 100 pages long, and it cited and detailed more than 50 allegations of excessive force mostly committed by officers who never faced any disciplinary action whatsoever. Some of the plaintiffs in the suit were attendees of protests on behalf of Prude and they allege that their demonstrations against police violence against people of color resulted in, well, police violence against people of color.

According to the suit, police officers used “extreme and unnecessary force” in firing a total of 77 tear gas canisters and 6,100 pepper bullets at protesters during demonstrations that took place last September in the weeks following the release of information regarding the circumstances around Prude’s death—info that unfortunately didn’t lead to cops being charged with crimes.

From CBS:

The lawsuit details dozens of instances of alleged police violence at the protests, including a September 3 incident in which an officer allegedly shot a man in the eye with a pepper ball at “close range,” leaving him permanently blind. Officers are accused of then “intentionally” firing at the medics who attempted to provide aid — despite the medics allegedly wearing bright red jackets identifying who they were.

On September 4, Rochester resembled “a war zone,” with officers “unleashing flash grenades, tear gas, and thousands of pepper balls on the crowd,” the lawsuit said.

That night, police allegedly trapped a group of protesters on a bridge — a tactic commonly known as “kettling” — before attacking them with a number of weapons. “Videos from that night show heavily armored phalanxes of police using pepper balls, 40mm kinetic bullets, tear gas, and batons to assault diverse groups of protesters outfitted only with umbrellas, cardboard boxes, and plastic children’s sleds against the RPD’s military grade arsenal,” the lawsuit says.

“In New York City, for example, which saw thousands of demonstrators take to the streets, NYPD officers fired not one pepper ball,” the lawsuit added. “By contrast, one RPD officer the night of September 4, 2020, fired 148 pepper balls in the span of just twenty minutes.”

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But the suit isn’t only about the actions of police officers; it also accuses city officials of fostering a “sham internal disciplinary system,” and a “culture of violence and impunity” for cops by “failing to meaningfully train, supervise, and discipline officers who use excessive force.”

In fact, hundreds of police officers and city officials as defendants in the lawsuit that “seeks monetary damages and the appointment of an independent monitor for the police department, among other requests,” CBS reports.

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It’s worth mentioning that police departments in cities across America should be facing the same kind of litigation that Rochester and its police are facing. If cops want protests against police violence to end, they could extend an olive branch by—oh, I don’t know—ending police violence.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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