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Stewart: Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson wants to mediate Rochester unrest

The Rev. Lewis Stewart, left, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke on Wednesday.
Max Schulte/WXXI News
The Rev. Lewis Stewart, left, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke on Wednesday.

The Rev. Lewis Stewart said Thursday that the Rev. Jesse Jackson is considering coming to Rochester next week. 

Stewart spoke with the national civil rights leader on Wednesday and other members of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in recent days. He said Jackson has been closely watching the recent unrest in Rochester. 

“Mr. Prude’s death and the ongoing protests here was certainly a red flag for him to say, 'What can we do to help?' ” said Stewart. “Rev. Jackson would like to certainly come in the middle of next week and talk about things in regards to plotting a course for more stability in our city.”

Mass protests have been a daily occurrence in Rochester since Daniel Prude’s family revealed last week that Prude suffocated in police custody in March. His family called 911 because of concerns about his mental health. 

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Demonstrators have demanded resignations from city leaders like Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary; the chief said earlier this week that he'll retire at the end of the month. Protesters also came into conflict with Rochester police, who responded by using pepperballs, flash bangs and gas to disperse crowds around its headquarters downtown. Questions about who knew what and when about Prude's death have caused local leaders to point fingers at each other

Stewart has also joined former Mayor Bill Johnson in calling for the protests to stop. 

“Just to continue to have protest, protest, protest, without a clear focus becomes pointless.” said Stewart. “I think there needs to be a moratorium on protests right now. Protesters need to get together with others in the community and talk about where do we go from here.”

One of the largest Black Lives Matter groups, Free the People Roc, has some specific demands, including defunding the Rochester Police Department and a new law prohibiting police from responding to mental health calls.

Stewart said Jackson wants to help calm things down, and Stewart is hopeful that all parties will negotiate a compromise.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.