Two signs went up in Rochester yesterday. One at taxpayer expense, the other through private donations and fundraisers.
One honored a police officer shot dead in the line of duty. The other honored a guy from Chicago who ran naked down Jefferson Avenue high on PCP, shouting at people and smashing windows.
One made the evening news, the other didn’t.
Daryl Pierson had been a Rochester cop for eight years. Daniel Prude had been sent to prison nine times.
The Rochester Police Foundation – a private group of citizens who raise money to buy police equipment the city budget doesn’t cover – had been planning a tribute to Daryl Pierson for a couple of years. Shot in the throat while trying to apprehend an armed man on Hudson Avenue, Pierson was a young husband with a kindergartner and a new baby at home.
Daniel Prude was a sometimes homeless man whose situation in Chicago had degraded to the point he got on a train headed to his brother’s house in Rochester. Put off the train in Buffalo for bad conduct, his next day would be his last. Arriving in Rochester, he immediately got stoned, had a mental breakdown, was taken to the hospital by the police, released, got more PCP and ended up in the wee hours, naked, chasing cars down the street.
Initially cooperative with responding police, he became agitated, was held down on the pavement, had an episode of excited delirium, went into cardiac arrest, and died at a hospital a week later.
It’s a sad story.
And an enduring myth.
When, months later, the story became public, activists were outraged. Angry protests were held, the police were denounced, and calls for defunding and dismantling the Rochester Police Department echoed across the progressive left. Daniel Prude, the story went, was a martyr, an innocent black man executed by the racist police, another victim of the tyranny of white supremacy. A name shouted, a face painted, a hero enthroned. Daniel Prude became a symbolic justification for the left’s hatred of police.
Except that the police didn’t do anything wrong.
They used techniques they had been taught and equipment they had been issued. When the dust settled, not a one of them had violated a single policy or law. They did their duty. The only wrongdoing involved in the case was the mayor’s months-long cover up of the story.
But, about the signs.
Yesterday, at mayoral order, a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Park was renamed in honor of Daniel Prude. “Daniel Prude Square” the large sign reads.
“The City of Rochester will never forget Daniel Prude,” Mayor Malik Evans promised. “His death reverberated across and beyond our region, and we will memorialize him and ensure his name is remembered.”
The city of Rochester has dedicated nothing to the victims of its record-setting homicide epidemic, nothing to the memory of slain police Officer Daryl Pierson, and nothing to the memory of slain police Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz – who, in a heartbreaking irony, had been a pallbearer for fellow Tactical officer Daryl Pierson.
Nothing for them, most of a city park to Daniel Prude.
The other sign wasn’t put up by the city. It was done unofficially and with private money, and it now hangs over the main entrance of the Rochester Police Department’s Special Operations Section – the Tactical unit. The ceremony was private, and it included a widow and some children and a whole bunch of adoptive aunts and uncles in blue.
No press release was issued. No mayoral statement was made. It was ignored.
One sign is a monument to hating the police, the other sign is a monument to the result of that hate. One celebrates division, the other honors peacemaking. One encourages rage, the other invites reconciliation.
And taken together they illustrate the fight for the soul of Rochester, this country and all of humankind.
Above the door at a police station on Child Street, Rochester’s defenders honored one of their own.
On a concrete wall off Chestnut Street, Rochester’s mayor honored one of his own.
It is a tale of two cities, the best of people and the worst of people, the contest of good versus evil.
In a city where the bad guys usually win.