Buffalo Police announced the arrest of a Cattaraugus County man Monday afternoon, charging him with a hate crime after he allegedly held a knife and confronted Black Lives Matter protesters on Hertel Avenue Friday evening.
Michael Cremen, 47, of Franklinville is charged with harassment, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon. He will be arraigned Oct. 8.
The arrest comes after a man was seen on many social media videos brandishing a knife during Black Lives Matters protests on Hertel Avenue Friday, which coincided with the anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.
The videos show two men blocking marchers as they make their way along Hertel Avenue past Parkside Avenue. One of the men can be seen holding a knife in his hand, yelling racial obscenities and threatening marchers. A Buffalo Police officer sits in a patrol car just a few feet away.
"According to a complainant, the defendant was in the middle of the street at the intersection of Hertel and Parkside, using racial slurs and threatening the protestors. At one point, the defendant did display a knife and pushed one of the protestors, " police said in a prepared statement.
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Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said incidents like this won't be tolerated, whether alleged violence or the hate speech. He said police found it easier to identify the suspects, since neither wore face masks.
"An individual from Franklinville felt comfortable to come to this community and engage in hate speech and put his hands on a member of our community. Well, we will absolutely not tolerate that. We will not tolerate any form of violence in our community and the Buffalo Police operated swiftly to find this individual and to have them arrested," Brown said.
The mayor said the protesters have a basic First Amendment right to protest and exercise free speech.
"The individual wasn't smart. Obviously, a lot of hatred in this person's heart," Brown said. "People are going through a lot right now, a lot of challenges. Three major crises we're dealing with: the COVID-19 health pandemic, the crisis of systemic racism and an economic crisis."