Outside groups behind violent outbursts at protest, officials say

May 31, 2020

Niagara Square was the epicenter of a large protest Saturday night which triggered unrest and a heavy police response. Civic leaders now have said non-local, and violent groups could be behind it. 


The protest, which started at 5pm Saturday, started to turn violent after a few hours in front of the Jackson Courthouse in Niagara Square.
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White / WBFO News

What made an at first peaceful protest in Buffalo for the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police go from peaceful to violent? Mayor Byron Brown said the city was a target of an outside coordinated effort.

“Law enforcement has intelligence and has briefed us that there are people that are in this community from outside the city of Buffalo and outside of Erie County,” said Brown. “[They] are contributing to these problems. In fact, they are the ringleaders of inciting violence.” 

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said one of the main targets was the Federal Courthouse in Niagara Square, which saw several fights and arrests take place outside.

“One of the reasons why the U.S. District Courthouse, the Jackson Courthouse, had as many U.S. Marshals inside, was because of intelligence we had received earlier in the day,” said Executive Poloncarz. “The Jackson Courthouse, which is mostly glass in the front engraved with the Constitution of the United States, was going to be a target by some of those who truthfully would rather foment revolution than bring us together.” 

Poloncarz is hopeful a community-wide response for peace will bring a resolve to civil unrest.

“We are the city of good neighbors, we are a community of good neighbors, a county of good neighbors, and I know the vast majority of the people in this community are horrified at what they’ve seen across the country, and what they’re seeing in Buffalo tonight,” Poloncarz said. “And I think if we stand together, we will get through this as a community.” 

Police deployed gas and pepper spray to disperse crowds around Niagara Square, and both Poloncarz and Brown declared curfews which extended until Sunday morning.

Seven arrests were made, but officials say more are expected.

A driver trying to get through the crowd of protesters on Delaware Avenue was pulled from his car and beaten. The victim was taken away by ambulance. His car was badly damaged.

A protester grabbed a burning box in Niagara Square, smashed a window and threw it inside City Hall. City firefighters quickly extinguished the flames. A bail bondsman's van was set afire in Niagara Square.

There was also looting and vandalism reported elsewhere in the city.

 

WBFO's Mark Scott contributed to this report.