Lupien, Barnhart ask for DOJ probe into Rochester protests

(September 15, 2020) – Rochester City Councilmember Mary Lupien (D, East District) and Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D, 21) are asking the Department of Justice for a civil rights investigation into how law enforcement has responded to protests over Daniel Prude. They have sent a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Dreiband, who leads the Civil Rights Division.

There is considerable evidence that the First Amendment rights of countless citizens have been violated when police declared assemblies unlawful and used excessive force to disperse crowds. 

Dozens of protesters have been injured, some with severe eye injuries and broken bones. Legislator Barnhart was hit in the head with a pepper ball on September 5, leading to a concussion. Councilmember Lupien was struck in the back with a pepper ball on September 2.

“The police use of force has been disproportionate and excessive. We hope by asking for this review, we can get answers about what has happened and stop this from happening again,” said Lupien. 

“We need a full accounting of the police use of tear gas, pepper balls and other devices. I believe an outside government agency with expertise and resources needs to review the protest response,” said Barnhart. 

We would like the Department of Justice to examine the following:

  • What law enforcement agencies participated in the protest response in Rochester in September?
  • Who was supervising the response on each night of the protests and directing an escalated response?
  • What weapons and chemicals were used on citizens? 
  • Were these weapons and chemicals used appropriately?
  • Did law enforcement violate the civil rights of protesters?