The demonstrators staged a march on Monday to protest the excessive use of force against the young girl, who was pepper sprayed as nine officers responded to a domestic disturbance call last week, rallying outside the Rochester Police Department to demand accountability.
Footage circulating online showed the march and ensuing rally, including the moment protesters overturned a metal barrier erected outside the police station, allowing them to advance to an inner fence surrounding the squad car parking lot.
Demonstrators were also seen rattling the fence around the lot, but while police reportedly told them to disperse, little was done to push back the protesters, with officers instead milling in the doorway of the police station and periodically issuing orders through a loudspeaker set up in the parking lot.
Activists passed around a megaphone to deliver brief speeches during the rally, some heard calling for the firing of the officers who sprayed the young girl, while footage from earlier in the day showed a sizable crowd taking part in the march, estimated in the hundreds by videographer Brenden Gutenschwager.
As the protest was still underway, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement noting that at least some of the officers involved in the 9-year-old’s pepper-spraying had been suspended, pending an internal probe. While it isn’t clear whether all nine officers present during the incident were placed on leave, those who were suspended will continue to receive full pay, according to USA Today.
Body camera footage of the encounter emerged on Monday, with the 1-minute video showing a distressed girl handcuffed in the back of a police car as officers attempt to subdue her. Through the girl’s sobs, a female officer is heard threatening to pepper spray the child if she doesn’t calm down, and proceeds to do so moments later. Police were reportedly responding to “family trouble” and a potentially stolen vehicle at the time, and claim the girl was handcuffed for her own “safety” and at the request of one of her parents.
The girl has since been released to her family, but the footage has kicked off a major bout of controversy, inflaming existing tensions between police and Rochester residents, many of whom are still up in arms over the killing of Daniel Prude. The 41-year-old African American man died last March after officers pinned him to the ground during a mental health crisis, where he eventually stopped breathing. His death has also stoked a series of protests.
After weathering hours of snowfall and below-freezing temperatures, the marchers dispersed later on Monday evening, seen leaving the police station in groups to minimize the chance of arrests on their way out.
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