By Erin Reilly ’20, Editor-in-Chief
St. John Fisher College held a silent vigil in remembrance of Daniel Prude on the lawn of Kearney Hall on Monday afternoon, drawing a large crowd and a variety of reactions from students.
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died in custody of the Rochester police back in March, but that fact didn’t become public until last week. Now, protests across the city, state and nation have broke out calling for an end to police brutality, institutional racism, and the resignations of the local leadership as well as charges against the police involved. One of the officers involved in the killing, graduated from Fisher in 2012. Students, faculty and staff gathered — masked and socially distant — to remember Prude.
“We come here to say a name,” said Fr. Kevin Manarra, Director of Fisher’s Campus Ministry, at the beginning of the vigil. He stood at a microphone in front of the crowd, stating that everyone was there to say the names of Daniel Prude, Breonna Taylor, and countless other victims that must be recognized. He noted that the school and its members will not be silent about the injustices that are occurring all over the country, and now which are being brought to light in Rochester.
“For the next 11 minutes, the amount of time from when the first officer arrived to find Mr. Prude naked on the street amidst a mental health crisis, to the time an ambulance carried him away, let us stand here in silence,” Fr. Kevin said. “And when the bell tolls after 11 minutes, let us leave here in solidarity, with the resolve to say the name Daniel Prude.”
The vigil followed the highly anticipated response from the school following the breaking news regarding Prude’s death. After the news broke on Wednesday, September 2, students and recent graduates of the college took to social media, demanding a response from the school and condemning its silence.
Fisher’s Black Student Union, in an instagram post on Saturday, wrote, “As an institution that teaches Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge, we want to know how St. John Fisher College will educate its students on Diversity, Integrity, Responsibility and be there for the Black and minority students who’s most affected by the death of Daniel Prude and many other Black lives.”
On Sunday afternoon, Dr. Rooney released a statement regarding the matter. The statement came in an email to the entire campus.
“The death of Daniel Prude was tragic and shocking, as were the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Daniel Prude,” the email read.
The email affirmed that the college stands with those who fight for justice. “Central to the College’s mission is fostering a community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who demonstrate civic responsibility, professional integrity, and value diversity and service to others. Moments like this are a time for self-reflection on how we can better instill those values in each other, heal as a community, and move forward together,” it continued.
The email concluded with a schedule of events, starting with Monday’s silent vigil and concluding with a stand-in for justice on Thursday afternoon. Following Rooney’s statement and the vigil on Monday, members of Fisher’s Black Student Union expressed that, while an event like that was appreciated and well-attended, they feel that it isn’t enough. “Saint John Fisher College needs to step up on how it is responding to issues around race and diversity on campus,” members of the club said.
Fisher’s schedule of events for the week continued on Tuesday and Wednesday as the campus participated in the National Teach-In. The events will conclude on Thursday with an open panel discussion with Fisher’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) Team at 3:30 p.m., and a Stand-In for Justice in front of Kearney Hall at 4:30 p.m., open to members of the campus community.
According to some students, a protest walk is planned for Friday morning on the Fisher campus.
This is a developing story. The staff of the Cardinal Courier will follow the news of events in relation to St. John Fisher College as the events unfold.