A Buffalo Common Council member has joined the ranks of those conducting a silent protest during a traditional national recognition. Masten District representative Ulysses Wingo raised his first during the Pledge of Allegiance at Tuesday's Council meeting.
As his fellow Council members began reciting the pledge, Wingo quietly raised a fist and said a silent prayer in what he described to WBFO as a protest against the continued devaluation of African-American lives by people in power. Wingo says he had pondered the idea for a couple weeks and decided it was time to conduct the gesture.
Wingo also acknowledged the death of Terence Crutcher, who was fatally shot by a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer late last week. He says his protest was not directed at the Buffalo Police Department and spoke of the department's efforts to maintain good relations with the community.
"We haven't been on the news nationally, and we want to stay that way," Wingo told WBFO. "The Buffalo Police are continuing to try to be a model across the country as far as community relations, but we still cannot ignore the fact that there are people in our community who are uncomfortable with law enforcement because of the climate across this country. Unfortunately, that translates locally."
Wingo's fellow lawmakers showed no immediate reaction and Wingo says none of them spoke to him after the meeting about his gesture. Wingo says he is anticipating community conversation that he admits will not necessarily be comfortable.
"It cannot be ignored," he said.
Wingo's gesture comes amidst a national conversation that was sparked when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem prior to a preseason game. Kaepernick has since taken a knee during the playing of the anthem and numerous fellow athletes in the NFL and other sports have conducted similar actions.