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Protests Sparked By Daniel Prude's Death Escalate In Rochester, N.Y.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Protests are growing in Rochester, N.Y., after video was released of a Black man, Daniel Prude, who died of asphyxiation in March after being arrested. The video shows him lying naked in the street surrounded by officers with a bag over his head. As NPR's Brian Mann reports, anger is also growing over police tactics used to block mostly peaceful marches.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Friday night, thousands of people marched for hours through some of Rochester's most affluent neighborhoods demanding attention for the death of another Black man in police custody.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: (Chanting) Say his name. Daniel Prude. Say his name. Daniel...

MANN: Marchers are furious over what they see as an effort to cover up Prude's death, described initially by the Rochester PD as a drug overdose. Reese Diamond (ph), one of the protest organizers, rallied the crowd through a bullhorn.

REESE DIAMOND: RPD murdered a man in cold blood. They tried to cover it up, and they did a fairly decent job until now. No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #2: No peace.

DIAMOND: No justice.

MANN: Despite this anger and frustration, the march was overwhelmingly peaceful most of the night, people chanting and singing for racial justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #3: (Singing) We shall overcome.

MANN: But police declared the march an unlawful assembly, and on a bridge over the Genesee River set up a moving barricade using chemicals and firing pepper balls, driving marchers back in a chaotic rush.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Come back. Come back.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Unintelligible).

MANN: The confrontation quickly escalated as people in the crowd set fire to a bus stop and detonated fireworks.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS DETONATING)

MANN: I'm seeing people rinsing their eyes, and the chemical agent is being sprayed into the crowd. I see bottles being thrown toward the police.

Eleven people were arrested Friday night. Rochester Police say three officers were injured. Lawyers for Daniel Prude's families say they plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging police tactics against protesters. City and police officials didn't respond to NPR's inquiries about their reasons for confronting marchers in this way.

Stevie Vargas, another organizer of last night's demonstration, thinks crowds will get bigger as long as police respond with tear gas and barricades.

STEVIE VARGAS: People are angry. People saw how RPD brutalized people unprovoked. And they thought it would temper the movement, but it only fueled the fire.

MANN: Seven officers involved in Prude's arrest have been suspended, and his death is being investigated by New York's attorney general, Letitia James, who announced today she is empaneling a grand jury. The function of a grand jury is to consider possible criminal charges. Another big protest is expected here tonight.

Brian Mann, NPR News, Rochester, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.