The Rev. Lewis Stewart with the United Christian Leadership Ministries said on Wednesday that activists need to change their goals as they protest Daniel Prude's death.
Stewart spoke hours after police began dispersing protesters, who had been occupying outside of City Hall since Tuesday morning. Sixteen people were arrested. There have been daily, largely peaceful protests since news of Prude's death was made public two weeks ago.
In March, Prude died after police restrained him during a mental health arrest. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide.
While Stewart echoed activists’ demand to fire and prosecute the officers who arrested Prude, he said that protesters’ demands that elected officials resign are unrealistic.
“It’s unachievable,” he said. “If you want change then you have to go to the voting booth and deal with change and vote them out.”
Stewart said that the Rev. Jesse Jackson may visit Rochester early next week to speak with City Council, Mayor Lovely Warren, and possibly Black Lives Matter activists. He made similar comments in a press conference last week.
This time, he said that the Rochester Police Department will not be invited to the conversation.
“RPD is not innocent,” he said. “There has been a persistent and continuous pattern of disrespect for Black people for decades, I would say even going back 100 years or so.”
Stewart also called for a day of peace and reflection, but didn't specify when it would be held.