Tuesday marked one year since Daniel Prude was detained by police in Rochester, N.Y., while suffering what his family has called a mental health crisis that involved him walking naked through the streets—an encounter that led to him dying after being taken off of life support a week later.
Despite the belief held by many that Rochester officers used excessive force on Prude—who video footage shows was complying with the officers’ demands—and mocked him when they should have been helping him, a grand jury declined to charge the officers involved with any crimes. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city for what they called “Daniel’s Day,” and protested the 41-year-old’s death by making things terribly inconvenient for people in the city and, particularly, for a local Wegmans grocery store.
ABC 13 reports that the Wegmans on East Avenue in Rochester was shut down for nearly five hours on Tuesday due to the peaceful-yet-intrusive protest during which entrances to the store’s parking lot were blocked. Apparently, a bus terminal was shut down as well.
On Tuesday morning, protesters gathered at Parcel 5 in Rochester to honor Prude’s memory. From there, they marched to St. Paul Street and Mortimer Street and shut down the RTS terminal while marching. Passengers had to exit a bus that was slated to leave.
From there, they marched to the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street and made their way to the East Avenue Wegmans store, where they have stopped. Police have been keeping their distance and closed surrounding streets.
Some early reports on the protest claimed a “mob” of Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the store and trapped “100 customers inside.” WROC reporter Kayla Green was quick to set the record straight tweeting that “Wegmans closed doors and customers were kept inside temporarily but were let out soon after,” and that nobody was ever trapped inside. She also noted that the “mob” was “currently listening to music and eating pizza in the parking lot.”
Wegmans also tweeted a statement confirming that “Our East Ave. store in Rochester, NY is currently closed due to protest activity taking place outside of the store,” and that “no customers remain in the store, and the doors will remain closed. Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers.”
According to Democrat & Chronicle, activist organizations involved in the demonstration included Free the People Roc, the Arc of Justice and the Community Justice Initiative.
So, you might be asking yourself what Wegmans has to do with Prude’s death and why the store was targeted. Well, protester Anthony Hall—who, according to the Democrat & Chronicle, has worked in Rochester as a youth gang intervention specialist and is running for City Council—had a lot to say on that.
“As we march, rally and protest, you have to be able to stop commerce,” Hall said, the Chronicle reports. “Wegmans is a large business in Monroe County. This is the only Wegmans in the city limits, but it’s not accessible to the city residents. Hopefully, Danny Wegman talks with the Mayor and City Council because this affected him today. We want people to be inconvenienced because Daniel Prude’s family has suffered a great loss.”
Hall also explained to ABC that “when people are complacent in their comfortable spaces, they could care less about what’s going on in their society, but now when you bring it to their front door, they are worried about it.”
Justin Morris, president of the Rochester Chapter of the Arc of Justice, said that “Wegmans exemplifies what’s wrong in our community.”
“Wegmans started in the inner-city, in some of our most vulnerable communities, then they got their check and left,” Morris said. “There is no reason why Danny Wegman is having so much success, but in the city, we have food deserts.”
Sometimes that’s just how it is with activism: One act of systemic racism becomes an opportunity to address a number of injustices in any given city.
As for people who condemned Tuesday’s demonstration as disruptive nonsense that had nothing to do with Prude, Hall said the criticism is a good thing.
“I’m glad you feel like that and now you are uncomfortable and frustrated. Now let’s educate,” he said, ABC reports. “It’s unapologetic and it is going to hurt but I think if we have this conversation, we can move forward as a people.”