Photo Credit: Police Body-cam Footage
By Serran Soledad
Protests erupted this week after body-cam footage surfaced from a January 29 incident showing Rochester, New York police officers forcing a handcuffed nine-year-old Black girl into the back of a police car before pepper-spraying her in the face. The assault on the child was in response to a mental health call made by her mother.
The disturbing video begins with the distressed child lying in the snow, screaming for her father as police attempt to put handcuffs on her. After restraining the girl, the officers spend the next few minutes aggressively attempting to force her into the back of a police car. As she continues to cry for her father, officers bend her arms back.
One officer can be heard telling the 9-year-old, “You’re acting like a child,” to which she responds “I am a child!”
Officers begin making threats that if she does not comply, she will be pepper-sprayed—moments later, a female officer proceeds to pepper-spray the girl. The doors are then shut, muffling the sound of her screaming in pain.
As the video gained traction and public outrage grew, the three yet to be identified officers involved were suspended with pay from the Rochester police force.
The following day, a large protest marched through the streets of Rochester to the front of the police station chanting, “Black Lives Matter!” Organized by Free The People Rochester, the protest presented demands for the firing of all three officers involved and an end to the city’s contract with the police union, the Rochester Police Locust Club, after union president Mike Mazzeo defended the officer’s actions at a press conference following the incident. The march culminated in the barricades surrounding the police department being overturned.
Activists held another protest on Wednesday, this time at the Locust Club headquarters. About a dozen protesters approached the building before angrily engaging with those inside.
On Thursday, the mother of the child, Elba Pope, announced her intentions to file a lawsuit against the city and police department for the mental distress and physical pain that they caused her daughter.
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