The #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackDisabledLivesMatter movement exists 24hr, 365days a year with the focus of ending the killing and harm of Black bodies. In Rochester, NY where Center for Disability Rights (CDR) headquarters is located there have been two national horrific incidences by Rochester Police against Black bodies in the past year. On January 29, 2021 two Rochester Police Officers were in the process of arresting a 9year old Black girl who was in a mental health crisis and in need of services to care for her not punish her. In that process the officers, both are white, were physically abusive, forced her into restraints with handcuffs, forcibly threw her body into the back of a police car and used chemical restraints in the form of pepper spray to force their control of her body.
This 9year old Black girl who will remain anonymous at the request of her mother, was clearly in trauma as she was yelling and crying out for help and for her father. CDR condemns the use of any restraints on any child and has done so for many years in the fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities. The Rochester Police officers were completely wrong when they decided to get involved in this situation using force and chemical restraints. For far too long CDR and activists have demanded that in the cases of mental health crisis there be absolutely no interference or calls to law enforcement to handle. It is apparent after two high profile cases in Rochester and everywhere in this country, police departments are not skilled or ready to handle these types of calls without causing harm to Black disabled people. This must end and CDR is going to continue to speak out and call out these horrific actions until they cease to exist in the community.
We are thankful that Mayor Lovely Warren has listened to many in the community and chosen to address this harmful incident with swift actions. Yesterday the Mayor released a draft reform for the city police department in accordance with the Governor’s executive order 203 on reinventing policing after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. CDR will review this document carefully and participate in the public comment of these recommendations. We will also work toward making sure all people with disabilities in the city of Rochester are able to live safe and independent lives. We encourage all Rochester residents to go to the city’s website read the information on the Mayor’s work to reform the police department, read the draft of her plan and participate by sending in your thoughts. It is imperative that our elected officials hear from the community on this issue. Please go here: https://www.cityofrochester.gov/executiveorder203/
CDR spoke out against the horrific killing of Daniel Prude when the Rochester Police Department video of is horrendous killing by officers was released in September 2020. We are speaking out now in this brutal case where two police officers used physical force and chemical restraints on a 9year old Black girl. We will continue to speak out, protest, activate our community and fight for the end of killing and harming Black bodies by law enforcement. We are in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackDisabledLivesMatter movements across this country and the world.
CDR works for national, state, and local systemic change to advance the rights of people with disabilities by supporting direct action, coalition building, community organizing, policy analysis, litigation, training for advocates, and community education. CDR advocates for the full integration, independence, and civil rights of people with disabilities.