Sunday was no day of rest for protests in Buffalo

Jun 8, 2020

"No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace."

That chant echoed across large parts of Buffalo Sunday, shouted in a series of protests in different sections of the city at different times.

There were several protests Sunday: at Martin Luther King Jr. Park organized by prominent religious and organized labor leaders, a walk through the Elmwood Village to Bidwell and another that started in Niagara Square and moved up Court Street to a longer stay at Lafayette Square.

During a protest that took over the steps of City Hall steps, one speaker was nearly shouted down when he challenged some of the attitudes of other speakers. Voe Vazquez asked about a fire started in City Hall during a recent protest.

"The kid who threw a box through a window of this building that we're protesting in front of. That's not the same as peacefully protesting. That's violence and looting (shouts and music to shut him down). I will let you speak," Vazquez said.

This protest eventually moved up Court Street and reconvened on the lawn of Lafayette Square. There, the rally was dominated by Henry Johnson, telling his story of a life dealing with police after a prison term and a subsequent arrest, and trying to build a photography business. Johnson said George Floyd's words brings back bad memories.

"I don't even like to hear 'I can't breathe' because I remember, I begged the Buffalo Police officers to roll down the window because I couldn't breathe," Johnson said, "and all I smelled was pepper spray and Mace, I smelled like gunpower."

Johnson's long talk of the reality of arrest and conflict with police officers was paired with the sloganizing of the protests.  

Olivia Maybee was there from a different perspective, as an enrolled Seneca.

"Purpose is for Black Lives Matter and justice for George Floyd and all of the other lives that have been lost due to police brutality and unjust deaths," she said.

Maybee said there is some self-interest, since if society attitudes change toward black people, they may also change toward American Indians.