Legislators to Cuomo: Are NY State Police Also Abusing Daniel Prude Protesters?

Daniel Prude
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[Daniel Prude Protests]
Letter to Cuomo: "We would be very disappointed to learn NYSP is involved in this excessive response to protests and ask that you take appropriate action to protect our neighbors and fellow citizens."
Photo: Twitter

This week, Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, Rochester City Councilmember Mary Lupien, Irondequoit Town Board member Nicole Hushla Re, and Robin Wilt, Brighton Town Board Member sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding allegation of police abuse, by New York State Troopers, during protests for Daniel Prude who was killed by Rochester Police officer earlier this year.

Here is the letter:

Dear Gov. Cuomo,

We request information about the response from New York State Police to protests in Rochester, N.Y. regarding the homicide of Daniel Prude. There is considerable evidence that the First Amendment rights of countless citizens have been violated when police declared assemblies unlawful and used violence to disperse crowds.

We know the NYSP have been on the ground assisting the Rochester Police Department.

There is a lot of confusion, however, over the role of NYSP and other law enforcement agencies because of non descript uniforms and vehicles. We also don’t know who has been coordinating the agencies and directing orders. The following is a summary of what has occurred over the past two weeks, so you have an understanding of the seriousness of what has happened and the need for answers and action.

Protesters have been met with heavily-militarized law enforcement personnel who have instigated confrontations. Police have used disproportionate and excessive force on thousands of citizens in response to provocations from a few people. They have indiscriminately fired pepper balls on peaceful protesters, disregarding department protocols forbidding firing into a crowd and aiming at peoples’ heads.

Dozens of protesters have been injured through the use of pepper balls, tear gas and othermethods, with some citizens suffering severe eye injuries, concussions and broken bones.

On September 5, we were among a group of elected officials, pastors and senior citizens standingat a barricade not 20 feet away from police when they fired pepper balls at our bodies. Legislator Rachel Barnhart was among those who was hit in the head, leading to a concussion. Councilmember Mitch Gruber was also struck several times with pepper balls. Later in the evening, Nicole Re, an official with the local Democratic Party, was hit in the face with a tear gas canister, breaking her nose.

Journalists recording events have been targeted and repeatedly struck by projectiles throughout the protests. Councilmember Lupien was struck in the back with a pepper ball on September 2. Police reportedly shot pepper balls at a church on September 5, while injured protesters sought refuge inside.

Police are using the 11 p.m. curfew ordered by the mayor in an arbitrary and capricious manner. There are no consistent standards for what is an unlawful assembly, and it is being used to violate the First Amendment rights of protesters. On September 5, they declared the assembly unlawful as we arrived at a barricade - before the curfew and before any unruliness from protesters.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren claimed she does not have operational knowledge of the department’s actions. Officers continue to evade accountability by covering their names, and in some cases badge numbers. We cannot assume all responding officers are from the Rochester Police Department.

Police have shown they ​do​ know how to de-escalate protests and avoid violence, as they have allowed protesters to march and demonstrate uninterrupted and without serious confrontation from September 6 to September 11.

On those evenings, police greatly decreased their militaristic presence and showed restraint. On September 12, we saw a return to the previous militaristic tactics, observed from September 2 to 5, of creating standoffs and using force onprotesters who were peacefully participating. One man was arrested while filming officers, who later confiscated his camera.

A live feed of the standoff showed a law enforcement officer from an unidentified agency pointing a weapon at protesters.

We request the following:

●How many New York State troopers were deployed each evening from September 2 to the present?

●What equipment did the NYSP deploy, including armored vehicles, rubber bullets, teargas, pepper balls, LRAD, dogs and/or any other less lethal or crowd control tool? 

●Did troopers use any pepper balls, tear gas, LRAD, or other less lethal devices duringthe protests?

●Is this picture of a ​NYSP trooper? https://twitter.com/rachbarnhart/status/1305479058420109312?s=20 It was pulled from ​WHEC’s live feed​ on September 12,timecode 17:12.

●Who was coordinating the law enforcement response to the protests on each day?

In America, citizens should not have to don helmets, goggles, gas masks and shields to protest their government. They should not have to fear violence for demanding police stop killing our Black loved ones, friends and neighbors.

We would be very disappointed to learn NYSP is involved in this excessive response to protests and ask that you take appropriate action to protect our neighbors and fellow citizens.

Thank you,

Mary Lupien, Rachel Barnhart, Nicole Hushla Re, Robin Wilt

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