WXXI AM News

A look at the occupiers of Rochester City Hall

Sep 23, 2020

A 24/7 demonstration outside Rochester City Hall has ended, but for protesters it was one part of a much larger movement that is still gaining momentum.

On the first evening of Occupy City Hall, Michelle Dore, a white mother, watched over her three-year-old son as he played with other children along a blocked Church Street in front of City Hall.

John, 8, stands outside the entrance to Rochester City Hall in front of a list of protesters' demands.
Credit Noelle E. C. Evans | WXXI News

“I feel like I’m floundering in this world as a parent and trying to raise him appropriately. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things,” Dore said. “I feel like when I come to places like this, I learn a little more each time.”

Dore grew up in a racist home, she said. Her goal now is to raise her son differently. So, when he asks her about why Daniel Prude died, she said she tries to explain it in a way he can understand. 

“I try and say things like: ‘because the policemen aren’t capable of dealing with mental health, and he was hurting, and he was sad, and the policemen didn’t listen to him. They didn’t have the tools. Remember we have big emotions and we gotta cope and sometimes we all can’t cope,’” she said.

One of the children playing with her son is an eight-year-old Black boy named John. John also joined his family at protests. He said it can be confusing, but not scary. 

He said if he had the power to change things he would want “that the police officers would think about protecting all lives,” he said. “And, I would make a new police chief elected and he or she would be good.”

Occupy City Hall began last Tuesday. Hundreds of protesters are estimated to have gathered. 

Organizers announced the end of the demonstration on Monday, just hours after Mayor Warren and RPD Chief Mark Simmons were subpoenaed as part of an investigation into Prude’s murder

"This was an incredibly victorious moment," said Iman Abid, an organizer with Free the People ROC. "I think it was absolutely essential that the community reminded themselves of what they were able to accomplish as a collective, and what still needs to be done.”

Activists say that the Black Lives Matter movement will continue to seek justice for Daniel Prude and others. For many, it may be a lifetime of work.