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Rochester police officer tells activist she's being arrested 'for being an idiot'

Sep 2, 2020

A Rochester Police Department officer draws his Taser on Free the People Roc organizer Stanley Martin, though he did not fire it.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

News of the death of Daniel Prude after he was restrained by Rochester police officers in March sparked protests in Rochester on Wednesday, leading to the arrests or temporary detainment of a handful of demonstrators.

Among the arrested were Stanley Martin, a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement and a key organizer of the group Free the People Roc.

Martin was taken into custody after she and other members of the group forced their way into a section of the Public Safety Building on Exchange Boulevard.

The activists had been attempting to access a news conference hosted by Mayor Lovely Warren that was reserved for credentialed members of the media.

Several members of Free the People Roc, including another high-profile organizer, Ashley Gantt, could be seen having their hands restrained with plastic ties by police at the building, which serves as the Rochester Police Department headquarters.

Rochester Police released a brief statement early Thursday morning saying that 9 people were arrested in connection with the Wednesday afternoon protest at the Public Safety Building. Most of the charges involve criminal tresspass, some also include resisting arrest and one person also faces a charge of inciting a riot.

Wednesday’s arrests followed a series of escalating events that began with a news conference outside City Hall in which the activists joined with family members of Daniel Prude to reveal the circumstances of his death, announce plans for a lawsuit, and call for accountability.

“Mr. Prude was naked, defenseless, unarmed, and experiencing a mental health crisis,” Martin said at the news conference.

The activists issued several demands of city government, including firing and arresting the officers who restrained Prude. They also called on the mayor and City Council to pass legislation prohibiting police from responding to mental health calls, and to set up a system where mental health professionals handle such calls without the use of force.

“What we’re looking for is justice,” said Gantt.

After the news conference concluded, Warren made herself available to talk to members of the media. When members of Free the People Roc and Prude’s family attempted to follow, the mayor’s availability was delayed and moved to the Public Safety Building.

“This is a public building, we can come in,” Gantt at one point said to an officer blocking her and other activists’ entry into a conference room in the Public Safety Building. “Where is the law that says we can’t come in?”

After some reporters moved to a second-story door to try to get a turn with the mayor, the activists followed and entered a hallway through swinging doors. Soon after, Martin barreled out the door with an officer chasing her.

“No, no, stop it!” Martin yelled as she crashed into a wall.

The officer grabbed her by the arm and said, “You want to get tased?”

When Martin resisted, the officer said, “All right, you’re going to get tased” and drew his Taser and pointed it at Martin. Witnesses implored the officer to not use the Taser and he eventually holstered it.

“You’re arresting me for what?” Martin asked.

“Being an idiot,” the officer responded.

“You’re a racist pig,” Martin replied.

While escorting a handcuffed Martin away, the officer told her she was being arrested for trespassing.

Shortly after, police closed down the Public Safety Building and directed reporters to wait across the road. Police cars sped to the building and set up a line of metal barricades. One officer could be seen retrieving a blaze orange pepper ball gun from the trunk of his cruiser. Other officers set up barricades in front of the Public Safety Building.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, there were about 100 protesters gathered outside of the building and more appeared to be converging. Police are in riot gear, and they deployed pepper balls in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.