Protests continue outside a Kenmore gas station, where earlier this summer a man was wrongly arrested. Family members and protesters want answers from town officials regarding the treatment of Eric Martin Jr.
Dozens of people stood on the sidewalk in front of the Speedway gas station on Kenmore Avenue decrying the arrest of Martin, 30, in early July. Martin was arrested on suspicion of stealing lottery tickets from the Speedway, but was released when it was proven he had purchased the tickets. Martin claims he was the victim of assault by police officers and has obtained legal counsel.
Holding an “I Can’t Breathe” sign on Kenmore Avenue, Martin’s father, Eric Martin Sr., said he was overwhelmed by the show of support for his son, but said the younger Martin’s plight is a cautionary tale for young black and brown men and women in Western New York.
“This not a good situation,” Martin said. “Not just for him, but for any kid to be in. We’re out here for Eric Martin, but we’re out here for all Black kids in America. This one hurts because it’s mine, but if we don’t stand up for him, they’ll do it to another kid.”
Protester Tamea Dixon said not only does she want to see justice served for Martin, but also to see a systems correction within law enforcement.
“A lot of times we have systems that set up, not for everybody in our community,” she said. “So the systems need to be evaluated and how they’re working needs to be reevaluated and changed so everyone has the support that they need.”
Inbetween handing out flyers to passing cars and speaking to the crowd of protesters through a megaphone, Martin family friend Charley Fisher, who began the initial protest, said people will be held accountable for traumatizing an innocent man.
“This is not enough,” he said. “We got their attention. They’ve apologized. Not good enough. But they have acknowledged that [Martin] bought a legal ticket. But this kid was arrested and the police department should not have arrested him.”
Fisher added this fight for accountability doesn’t just end with Speedway management.
“That was overpolicing and bad policing,” he said, “and our next issue is with the Town of Tonawanda. And what you see here, I think it will be two or three times more of [this] when we get to the town hall. We’re coming to the police headquarters on Sheridan.”
Fisher said his primary concern is boycotting the Speedway, but said he would like a meeting with the Town of Tonawanda’s supervisor and police commissioner to figure out how they will give Eric Martin Jr. his justice.