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NBWJI Statement on Rochester Police Pepper-Spraying Mother with Child

The National Black Women’s Justice Institute released the following statement from Executive Director Dr. Sydney McKinney responding to the report that the Rochester police department pepper-sprayed a Black mother with her three-year-old child:

Just one month ago, I responded to video footage of Rochester police pepper spraying a nine-year-old girl. Today, I am responding once again to the appalling actions of the same police department.

Although the mother in this situation opened her purse to police to make it clear she had not taken anything from the local Rite Aid, the police were determined to criminalize this woman anyway—the charge of trespassing is an overreach and ridiculous. And, in further escalating the situation, they traumatized the woman’s three-year-old daughter who was pulled away from her mother and forced to witness the police pepper spray her mother.

It is clear that this police department has deep-seated issues of bias that must be addressed immediately. As I have said before, incidents like this—and many others—show how the convergence of racial bias and gender bias make interactions with police devastating and traumatizing for both Black women and Black girls. Separating children from their parent/caregiver is incredibly traumatic and can have lifelong consequences for everyone involved, especially the children. We need accountability and we also need real justice—a system that listens to and supports Black women and girls and invests in our communities.


About the National Black Women’s Justice Institute

The National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) works to reduce racial and gender disparities across the justice continuum affecting Black women, girls, gender non-conforming people, and their families, by conducting research, providing technical assistance, engaging in public education, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for informed and effective policies. We conduct research, evaluation, and technical assistance from an intersectional lens that centers race/ethnicity and gender as well as gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation/identity for participants, staff, and partners organizations/individuals.


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