A group of protesters occupying Niagara Square was met by Buffalo police officers as they marched from downtown Buffalo to Mayor Byron Brown’s residence Wednesday evening.
The group, calling themselves the Western New York Liberation Collective, began their march after demanding accountability from the city’s police department.
Marching through the Elmwood Village, protester Ed Lawton, or Sparky as he’s affectionately known as, said the numerous grassroots efforts for police reform is proof people have had enough.
“What I’ve seen is this community has just come together with the absence of the conventional organizations in Buffalo,” he said. “From the beginning, determined to have their goal of stopping this consistent issue with police abuse, police brutality, and lack of police accountability. They’ve decide to hold this space, do their thing and take their time and figure out how as a community their demands as a whole could be reached.”
Lawton said one of the three reforms being demanded by the Collective is not only defunding the police, but disarming them as well.
“They want the Buffalo Police Department and the City of Buffalo to immediately begin to defund the police department. Starting by demilitarization and such a way where they can strip the new weapons budget for the next year from the Buffalo police budget and put that into de-escalation and community issues.”
Other reforms the Collective demands are creating a police oversight committee with full subpoena powers and the enforcement of Cariol’s Law which would require officers to report misconduct within in the force, and would also protect the jobs and pensions of whistleblowers.
As the protest reached Brown’s neighborhood, police stood guard outside the Mayor’s residence. Protesters stood for several minutes and angrily shouted for police reform before moving down the street.
As Brown was escorted to an unmarked police car, a protester organizer shouted for her group to "stay off of his (the mayor's) property." Protesters shouted slogans at him, as police warned them to "back up." A street-wide group of protesters then quickly interlocked arms to create a peaceful line between police and other protesters.
The march followed the early Wednesday morning arrests of 13 protesters who had been occupying Niagara Square for the past couple weeks. The protesters were taken to central brooking and later told Investigative Post they were held for about five hours before being released.
Had the protesters been arrested just a few hours later, they would not have been taken into custody at all. Buffalo police made the arrests just hours before the city's new policy to issuse appearance tickets for non-violent misdemeanor charges went into effect.
Leading the march, with bullhorn in hand, was a woman who would only identify herself as “KK.” As a woman of color, “KK” said she is fed up with the justice system as it currently stands.
“We’re just really tired of police brutality,” she said. “And systematic racism and oppression. And as you can hear, they’re saying Black Lives Matter and that’s what needs to happen, is Black and Brown lives need to matter for all lives to matter. And until then we’re not going to stop.”
As for what’s next for the Liberation Collective, KK said the plan is to grow the collective and keep the pressure on until the demands are met.
“Same thing, different day,” she said. “We’re going to start moving around hopefully and we’re going to get more people to join us in our protests and our marches, and just make sure we protest peacefully but we are heard.”
The Collective says it plans to continue to occupy Niagara Square until their demands are met.