Buffalo reacts to nation's tragic week that was, prayer vigil planned

Jul 8, 2016

Whether it was local elected officials, leaders in the faith community, retired law enforcers or other everyday people, Western New Yorkers reacting to this week's events in Baton Rouge, suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas are calling for renewed conversation and respect. 

Buffalo Police vehicles parked outside Police Headquarters on Franklin Street Thursday morning.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

(This story is developing.)

In response to recent gun violence in Buffalo, the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Western New York had scheduled a prayer vigil for Sunday, July 10 at 4 p.m. at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. That was before police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota used deadly gunfire against two African-American men. It was before the sniper attack against police in Dallas that left five officers dead and at least a dozen people wounded.

Those Dallas police officers, ironically, were on duty maintaining order at a peaceful protest against the police shootings elsewhere earlier in the week.

"What I saw in Dallas last night ... it's just saddening," said the Reverend Kinzer Pointer. "You get sick in the pit of your stomach when you realize that there is, in our society, a lot of people who have a wanton disregard for the humanity of other people."

In his roles as pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church and as Buffalo Common Council President, the Reverend Darius Pridgen has been directly involved with an ongoing dialogue involving city officials, the police department and the public. Pridgen says compared to other urban communities, the relationship between Buffalo Police and the public is good. He credits the ongoing dialogue.

Buffalo's Police & law enforcement memorial on Franklin Street, downtown, is a reminder of those killed in the 'line-of-duty' Thursday morning following the deadly Dallas Police shootings.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"One of the first things we did when we saw tragedies happening in other places was to have the Police Oversight (Committee)," Pridgen said. "Clergy are very involved with police issues, so I'd say Buffalo does a lot better than other areas."

But Pridgen warned that, in the midst of what he described as a "national emotion," there should be time to let people calm down before conversations are held to address relations between police and the public, specifically African-American male members of the public.

"There has to be this time where all heads cool down, so that  we don't see a repeat of this," Pridgen said. "It could go either way, to be honest with you. I think that it could open up a new conversation of understanding the other's feelings. But I also think there are some people out there who are very angry, some people who at times have some very strong mental issues. It think we have to be very careful at this time."

Buffalo citizens are weighing-in with deep concern for the deadly shootings of five police officers in Dallas and two police killings of black men in two other cities this week.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley gathered local reaction at Canalside in downtown Buffalo.

“Well I have to say I was almost in tears this morning and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I feel sorry for the families, the officers,” responded Gaspher Aronica, retired Erie County Sheriff Deputy, reacting to the deaths of the Dallas police officers.  Aronica now volunteers for the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park at Canalside. 

Gaspher Aronica, retired Erie County Sheriff Deputy, reacted to the fatal shootings of five Dallas Police officers.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Aronica tells WBFO News everyone should be 'working together to solve the problems and not cause them'.

“In general, the public needs to have respect for the officers. They’re there just like the Army, the Navy and the Marines – they’re there to protect us, period,” Aronica explained. 

Ed Kirkwood of Buffalo is African American and offered his response to the debate over police shootings of citizens.

“We’re not on the same page. Everybody is off doing their own thing. We are not following rules, we are not following protocol.

Kirkwood tells us was pulled over, but made sure he acted with great respect to the officer.

Ed Kirkwood of Buffalo reacting to the situation while at Canalside Thursday.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“And I was scared for my life, but the officer was really nice to me, let me go and he went on his way and I went on my way. When you are being approached by an officer, you must know what to say and how to conduct yourself. 

Kirkwood added he believes police need more training and in urban communities, residents need get-to-know their officers to build respect for one another.

We also spoke to a Dallas woman visiting relatives in Buffalo. She declined a recorded comment, but said she's very upset with the violence that has unfolded in her city.     

A Black Lives Matter Rally is scheduled to be held in Buffalo Friday afternoon.  The rally will take place at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park starting at 4 p.m.  A local Facebook post for the event states the following: 

"We are having a Black Lives Matter Rally in Buffalo in Solidarity with our Brothers & Sisters in Rochester, NY as well as across the Country to speak with one voice! We will not sit back silently as our Children, Brother's, Sister's, Father's & Mothers are killed with impunity. We demand Equal Freedom & Equal Justice. We are for the humane and just treatment of everyone! We will not die silently....so that you can say we enjoyed it! Bring your signs & bring your humanity as we stand for Justice For All!!!"