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2 protesters in Rochester face federal charges

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP)  Two protesters accused of attacking police officers during a demonstration over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude face federal charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Adam Green of Dansville and Dallas Williams-Smothers of Rochester, both 20, were charged with obstructing and impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder. Green struck an officer in the head Saturday night with a makeshift wooden shield after the crowd was told to disperse, while Dallas Williams-Smothers threw a ``mortar-style, commercial grade'' firework at a line of police officers that same night, according to U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy.

``These arrests are not about deterring free speech, they're about deterring violent and dangerous criminal activity,'' Kennedy said at a news conference.

It could not immediately be determined if Green and Williams-Smothers had lawyers. Kennedy said they were appearing in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

Demonstrations have been held nightly in Rochester since videos were released last week of police restraining Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, on the street in the early morning hours of March 23. Prude died March 30 after being taken off of life support.

At a rally Saturday night, protesters and some elected officials reported officers fired pepper balls at close range, hitting people. Police said in a press statement that officers started firing pepper balls only after a protester set off a firework.

Kennedy said conviction on the charge can lead to up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Police Chief La'Ron Singletary and three other leaders of the force suddenly announced Tuesday that they were retiring. Three others gave up top leadership positions and returned to lower ranks.

Kennedy praised Singletary and his command staff at the news conference announcing the arrests and said he was ``heartbroken to see them go.``

``In my mind the actions of the command staff yesterday should serve as wake-up call to some in our community,'' Kennedy said. ``Your contempt, your hate and . your demonization of those who protect us, the police, is remarkably dangerous.``

Seven police officers were suspended Thursday, and state Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct an ``exhaustive investigation'' into Prude's death.

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