(Reuters) – Six naked, or near-naked, demonstrators gathered early Monday morning in downtown Rochester, in upstate New York, wearing “spit hoods” over their heads in solidarity with Daniel Prude, a Black man who died there in March days after police put a mesh hood over his head as he knelt naked and restrained on the street.
Monday’s demonstration came after a fifth night of street protests in Rochester ended peacefully and with no arrests.
The six protesters on Monday sat in the rain, some with “Black Lives Matter” painted on their backs and wearing white hoods over their heads, according to images and videos posted on local media and social media.
Video posted by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper showed the demonstrators later being wrapped in blankets and led away from the protest site.
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died after an encounter with Rochester police in March. His family last week released body camera footage from his arrest, showing a group of officers putting a mesh hood over Prude’s head – apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus – as he kneels naked and restrained on the street.
Release of the video was followed by protests in Rochester, turning the city of 200,000 people in the northwest corner of the state into the latest flash point in a summer of civil unrest over racism and police brutality.
The Rochester Police Department said they made no arrests on Sunday night as some 1,000 protesters marched through the city after officials vowed to reform policing and address mental health issues.
The protests in Rochester, like others that have raged across the country since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, have become fodder for the presidential election campaign.
President Donald Trump, who has been trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls and has been painting himself as a “law-and-order” president, tweeted Monday morning about recent protests.
“Rochester N.Y., Brooklyn N.Y., Portland – All had bad nights, all weakly run by Radical Left Democrat Governors and Mayors! Get the picture?” Trump tweeted.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren responded to Trump’s tweet in a statement that also praised “the true spirit of Rochester.”
“Lastly, I ask that all involved ignore the commentary from the President,” Warren said. “It is clear … his only desire is to bait people to act with hate and incite violence that he believes will benefit him politically.”
Biden has accused Trump of stoking violence in American cities gripped by protests over police brutality and has defended peaceful protests, while calling for rioters and looters to be prosecuted.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)