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Protest March Follows Decision Not To Indict Rochester Police In Black Man's Death

NOEL KING, HOST:

A grand jury says no charges will be filed against Rochester, N.Y., police officers involved in the homicide of Daniel Prude. Prude, you'll remember, was a 41-year-old Black man. He was having a mental health crisis in March of last year. And his brother called the police to get him help. Police found him naked in the street and handcuffed him. They put a mesh hood over his head and pinned him to the ground. And he later died. The public didn't know any of this until body camera footage was released in September. And a medical examiner ruled that Prude's death was a homicide. Earlier this morning, I talked to NPR's Liz Baker, who is in Rochester. Good morning, Liz.

LIZ BAKER, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: OK. So this grand jury was convened by New York's attorney general, Letitia James. When she made the announcement that there would be no charges, did she say why not?

BAKER: No, she didn't. She said the decision was up to the judge and that she was disappointed in the outcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LETITIA JAMES: The system too often allows officers to use deadly force unnecessarily and without consequence. And that is a system that, at its core, is broken.

BAKER: James said she'll release the grand jury minutes. She also says her office will investigate the Rochester PD's use of spit hoods. Police put a hood over Prude's head after, they say, he spit at them. And, Noel, James also says she's looking into this other case that happened a few weeks ago, when officers handcuffed and pepper sprayed a 9-year-old girl, which is just one more instance recently that's got residents here so fed up that some are calling for the abolition of the police force entirely.

KING: Back in the fall, there were protests, there were big protests. What happened in Rochester last night?

BAKER: Well, there was a protest. There was a march. And it was peaceful, unlike some of the protests last year. But there were still some tense moments. Police and protesters faced off a few times. But there were no rubber bullets or tear gas. And everyone there I asked told me they never really had any hope for a conviction, that this is just another example to add to a long list of grievances they have against the Rochester Police Department and local leaders. Here's protester Anthony Hall (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ANTHONY HALL: This shows us not only does a Black woman as a AG, attorney general, have no power...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Come on. Come on. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: Right. Yeah.

HALL: ...This shows us that a system, a institution, jurors, gave her no bill - people that look like you and me.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Come on.

HALL: So guess what? That's institutional.

BAKER: Other demonstrators told me they always knew it would take more than just one summer of protests to see real change to the criminal justice system. And they'll keep taking to the streets as often as needed.

KING: The Black woman that Anthony Hall - the AG he's referring to is Letitia James. He's saying she has no power. So what are the demands at this point?

BAKER: For the activists, this has always really been about police reform. Already, one police chief has been fired over this. They want a new mayor. They want new city councilors. Protests in reaction to Prude's death set off a wave of political activism, too. And some organizers are now running for local offices. And we should note, the legal fight isn't over for Daniel Prude's family. The U.S. Department of Justice will review the New York grand jury investigation.

KING: NPR reporter Liz Baker. Thanks, Liz.

BAKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.