Rochester, NY— Today, the city of Rochester released disturbing video footage from a police encounter on January 29, 2021, where a minor was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed in the back of a police car. In response, Mercedes Phelan, Citizen Action Lead Organizer, released the following statement: 

“The footage of Rochester police handcuffing and pepper spraying a 9-year-old child is angering to say the least. It’s disheartening that even after the killing of Daniel Prude, which resembles a similar scene to what we witnessed in this latest video, where Daniel was treated less than human, the department would inflict more pain on our community. The young child was clearly emotionally distressed. These officers failed to realize that they were not there to make an arrest. Too often incidents like this remind us that police officers should not be responding to mental health crises, they can’t be trusted with the safety of our children nor can they be trusted to de-escalate emotional distress situations.

“How many more instances of police brutality and violence must we endure before elected officials have the political courage to change the system? Communities in Rochester and across New York State are demanding: 1) We implement a system where police are no longer the primary responders to mental health crises. 2) Police brutality is all too common and we call for the firing of all of the officers who were present and failed to intervene or de-escalate the situation. 3) Defund the police and use the money to empower communities to build infrastructure that keeps us safe such as community restorative justice centers and harm reduction based social workers. 4) And last but not least, we must invest in social workers and implement restorative practices in schools to ensure children are getting the support they need.”