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Video of police suffocating Daniel Prude is horrifying, but Americans need to watch it

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

Video from police body cameras shows Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, being suffocated by police officers on a street in Rochester, New York, on a cold, early morning in March. Prude died seven days later after his family had him removed from life support.

You need to watch that video.

Prude’s death happened two months before George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer launched an ongoing wave of national protests against police brutality and racial bias in policing. But the video of Prude was only released this week, on Wednesday, after his family obtained it through a public records request.

The video of what police officers did to Prude, who was naked and handcuffed, is horrifying. The police officers around him are, at one point, laughing and cracking jokes while he’s face down on the street with a fabric bag known as a “spit hood” tied over his head, suffocating.

It’s painful to hear Prude’s final sounds. It was painful to watch video of Floyd slowly dying on the street in Minneapolis. And it was painful to hear the crack of gunshots as a police officer in Kenosha shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back at close range.

But those videos must be watched. People need to see what happened to Prude, whose death was ruled a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” People need to see Floyd’s final breaths. People need to see Blake being shot in front of his children.

 

In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., are the words of Elie Wiesel, author and Holocaust survivor: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

We must.

We can’t understand what we don’t see. We can’t fix what we look away from. We can’t make sure horrible acts aren’t repeated if we avert our eyes.

So watch the video and see how Prude was treated. He was found to have phencyclidine, or PCP, in his system. Did that and his erratic behavior, while cuffed and naked, warrant a death sentence?

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