ROCHESTER — "Our stance has been measured, we are showing restraint."
So said Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary as he defended the police response to Saturday night's protest. He insisted that the police try to let people speak freely, but that the way they handled the demonstration was still appropriate.
What had been a peaceful protest turned into what one pastor referred to as a "war" on Saturday when the crowd met police at Broad and Exchange Streets. It was then that the police announced the gathering was unlawful and told everyone to leave.
Bottles and fireworks were thrown, and police then responded by firing tear gas and pepper balls.
"My appeal to Chief Singletary is we've got to sit down to figure out a way to deescalate," says Pastor Marlowe Washington, who was bruised during the protests.
Singletary said it had become imperative to stop dangerous outsiders in the crowd from storming the Public Safety Building, and that police had arrested suspects from as far away as Alaska, Massachusetts, and other states.
"There is credible information that outside agitators want to destroy the P.S.B.," said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.
Meanwhile, Singletary acknowledges that there are some calls, such as on mental health, that the police need to either change their approach to or shouldn't handle at all. However, he says that ultimately, they need to try the best they can.
"The officers get dispatched to the call, the officers try to deal with the situation as best as possible," Singletary said when asked if there was another call similar to Daniel Prude's case.
"What we are trying to do is move forward to see how we can do it better when officers respond."