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Saturday's protests end with 9 arrests, 3 officers injured

Staff reports
Democrat and Chronicle
Black Lives Matter protesters take over the steps of City Hall during Black Lives Matter protest held Saturday night, Sept. 5, 2020, in downtown Rochester.

ROCHESTER, NY — A fourth night of protests over the death of Daniel Prude was the largest yet, and again ended with pepper balls, tear gas and fireworks.

Rochester police said they arrested nine people, including two on felony charges. Three officers were "treated at local hospitals for injuries sustained as a result of projectiles and incendiary devices which were launched against them," said Lt. Greg Bello in a news release.

No official account of injuries to protesters was offered. But social media showed images of protesters hit by projectiles, including Monroe County legislator and former journalist Rachel Barnhart.

Democrat and Chronicle reporters and photographers were on scene as thousands of protesters marched through the city Saturday night.

The demonstrations, which began on Wednesday after the Democrat and Chronicle reported the story of Daniel Prude, who died after being restrained by Rochester Police Department officers in March.

The protest was organized by Free The People Roc.

What happened: How Daniel Prude suffocated as Rochester police restrained him

A timeline of journalists' observations and official news releases begins below the gallery. Check back for more details.

9 arrested, 3 Rochester cops hurt in Daniel Prude protest

Sunday, 5:20 a.m. Rochester police released a preliminary report of those arrested.

Seven people ranging in age from 19 to 62 were charged with unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor.

Two whose charges included felonies:

Dallas Williams-Smothers, 20, charged with first-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree rioting.

Adam Green, 20, charged with second-degree assault against an officer and unlawful assembly.

Hometowns were not listed for those arrested.

Freelance photographer detained, released

Sunday, 1:06 a.m. A Rochester freelance photographer was detained by police on State Street. The man identified himself as Mustafa Hussain to Democrat and Chronicle reporter Georgie Silvarole as the two walked back to their cars together after covering the protest and unrest in the city. Hussain walked across the street to get a better angle of the scene when he was tackled by police, according to Silvarole.

Police put him in the back of a cruiser and confiscated his cameras and backpack, Silvarole said. One of Hussain's photos ran in The New York Timeslast week.

About an hour later, police released him. He was not charged.

Rochester police say officers were hit with bottles, rocks

Sunday, 1:03 a.m. The Rochester Police Department released a statement alleging that a smaller group continued throwing objects at officers:

Officers held the intersection of Broad and Exchange without advancing past Broad St. At 11:10 p.m. multiple fireworks were thrown toward officers at which time officers responded with tear gas and pepper ball. Officers continued to get pelted with bottles and rocks from this position. To disperse the crowd and prevent further attempts by the crowd to injure officers, the line of officers advanced in measured increments.

12:00 am the bulk of the protesters have left the area of Downtown, although there are approximately 50-100 agitators who continue to throw objects at officers from various locations near City Hall and State St. Officers advanced to City Hall as agitators were breaking windows at the building. At 12:50 am officers are holding the Downtown area, the majority of protesters and agitators have left the area.

Police push back protesters

11:28 p.m. Police have pushed the demonstrators back up Exchange Street to West Main. Traffic on Main is not blocked, however, resulting in a backup of vehicles mixing with and honking at protesters.

Rochester police issue first statement

11:01 p.m. In a news release, Rochester Police provided the following account of the evening:

"The Rochester Police Department together with our local and state law enforcement partners worked diligently to safely address protests in the City of Rochester this evening.

"Just before 9 p.m. the crowd of approximately 1,500 protesters started marching toward Downtown Rochester from Jefferson Avenue. Officers blocked off streets from a distance to allow for peaceful protesting and marching. At approximately 9:40 p.m. the group arrived at City Hall.

"At 9:45 p.m. officers observed commercial grade fireworks in the crowd. 10:15 p.m. members of the group put helmets on and moved the shields to the front of the group. 10:18 p.m. the crowd marched toward Exchange Blvd and Broad St. Officers maintained position behind two layers of barricades. At 10:20 p.m. the crowd started to throw bottles at officers. Officers remained steadfast while being hit with bottles and ordering the crowd to disperse.

"Numerous verbal attempts to disperse the crowd were ignored by the crowd. 10:24 p.m. officers were hit with rocks and incendiary devices (multiple commercial grade fireworks). 10:26 (p.m.) officers deployed pepper ball and tear gas for the first time."

Armored vehicles arrive

10:43 p.m. Multiple armored vehicles have moved into the intersection of Broad and Exchange. Much of the crowd has left the area.

Police dogs (at least two) were brought to the area but have not been used.

Large explosions are heard and fireworks are shot

10:27 p.m. The booms are audible across the city and into nearby suburbs. First reports of police firing pepper balls and tear gas. Police are pushing back the crowd, with officers having moved beyond the barricades.

It was not clear from video and witness accounts whether police deployed pepper balls before or after a lit firework was thrown at officers.

Rochester police order crowd to disperse

10:21 p.m. Police have declared the demonstration to be an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse.

There have, at this point, been no arrests tonight, RPD spokeswoman confirms.

Protest heads to Public Safety Building

10:10 p.m. The demonstration is moving south on State Street and Exchange Boulevard toward the Public Safety Building and RPD headquarters. Chants of "No justice, no peace. (Expletive) these racist (expletive) police" and a call-and-response of "Black Lives Matter" filled the air.

They encountered barricades and a large police presence at Broad Street by Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial. Protesters with shields were being directed to the front.

Marching on City Hall

9:48 p.m. The march has led people to gather outside City Hall on Church Street. At least two City Council members (Mitch Gruber and Mary Lupien) are participating in the demonstration. The pair have separately called for investigations of the city's handling of the case to date, and of police tactics.

The group filled the street and the front steps,as speakers read a list of demands.

Chants of "Resign!" were directed at Mayor Lovely Warren and other city leaders as well as the parademics who responded to the scene back on March 23.

AMR Rochester, through its parent company Global Medical Response, has declined to answer whether any staff were disciplined or policies changed in response to the Prude case. In separate responses to reporter questions this week, a spokeswoman cited patient privacy laws and the state investigation, saying: "We cannot provide a comment surrounding this specific transport request except to acknowledge that we are cooperating fully with the investigation."

West Main shut down

9:07 p.m. The march has moved onto West Main Street, filling the four-lane roadway with demonstrators shoulder-to-shoulder. Protesters are largely masked, some carrying homemade shields and signs.

Police are staying ahead of the group to stop traffic.

Protesters begin march on street Prude was restrained

8:55 p.m. Protesters begin marching toward downtown Rochester from Jefferson Avenue, where they had gathered near the site Daniel Prude was handcuffed and pinned by police back on March 23, until he stopped breathing.

Prude was suffering a mental health episode at the time. The officers' police union has said they followed protocol, "step-by-step, exactly right to the second" of state training they had received little more than a month before.

Reporters estimate the crowd at several hundred people. Bicyclists are out front of the march, blocking intersections, using whistles to signal when it is safe to those on foot to advance.

City Council president: Do not let agitators incite violence

8:52 p.m. In an emailed statement released as demonstrators prepared to begin marching, Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott said:

"This week, the Rochester community has come together — to mourn the life of Daniel Prude, to seek answers regarding his death, and to hold the systems that failed Daniel accountable. My colleagues and I remain committed to bringing justice to Mr. Prude and his family.

"Last night, many citizens gathered to exercise their constitutional right to protest. Know that I understand the anger, confusion, and betrayal felt by the community during this time. Although tensions are high, we must ensure everybody remains safe and peaceful while protesting. I condemn any violence inflicted upon protesters, bystanders, and officers alike. I am also urging that we not let these peaceful demonstrations be commandeered by violent agitators, as we must focus on drawing attention to the true issues at hand and continue forging a path to a safer, more equitable Rochester."

7:07 p.m. New York Attorney General Letitia James will empanel a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude.

The announcement marks a significant milestone in the investigation. Having as yet been unable to interview the officers, James has signaled a willingness to move ahead with presenting a criminal case without them.

“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish," James said in a statement. "My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter.”

Neighboring sheriff's departments prepared to provide backup

6:54 p.m. Livingston and Ontario county sheriffs offices are on standby to provide support, per the request of Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter.

This account includes reporting by Georgie Silvarole of the USA TODAY Network's New York State Team, and Democrat and Chronicle journalists Will Cleveland, Brian Sharp, Jamie Germano, Shawn Dowd and Ryan C. Miller. Local reporting make this kind of work possible. Please consider supporting local journalists with a digital subscription. Here is our latest offer.

Exchange Street in front of the War Memorial during Black Lives Matter protest Saturday night, Sept. 5, 2020, in downtown Rochester.