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Occupy Buffalo is shut down by police, 10 arrested

Buffalo Police in riot gear at Niagara Square
Photo from Occupy Buffalo Facebook page
Buffalo Police in riot gear at Niagara Square

Niagara Square is no longer occupied.  Buffalo Police and city maintenance crews moved in just after midnight, following the expiration of Occupy Buffalo's agreement with the city to encamp on the property. 

10  Occupy members were arrested. 

Occupy members  rejected a final offer by the city to extend the agreement until March 8th.  That's when maintenance on Niagara Square was scheduled to start in preparation for upcoming city festivals.

Mayoral spokesman Mike DeGeorge said City Hall did not want to initiate an eviction, but was left with no choice.

"The Occupy group has been a very cooperative group. They worked well with the city and that's why it is so disappointing that it had to come to this. The city wanted this to end in a positive manner," said DeGeorge.
"At about 2 a.m. the Police asked occupy to leave Niagara Square," said Mayor Byron Brown.

The Mayor briefed reporters late Thursday morning on the arrests.

"It was never the city's intention for the encampment of the Square to go on indefinitely," said Mayor Brown.
"We made the decision that we would enforce the city ordinances."

Mayor  Brown said no more approvals will be made for encampments.

Most of the Occupy Buffalo members that were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

DeGeorge said from this point, the City will enforce all laws or ordinances.

After talks ended, the following  statement is from Timothy Ball, Assistant Corporation Council for the City of Buffalo: 

"The City's offer to extend the privilege granted to Occupy Buffalo to remain in Niagara Square until March 8th to accommodate it's rehabilitation for the upcoming festival season, while allowing Occupy to transition into the next phase of it's movement has not been accepted. The City will now enforce it's laws and ordinances in the wake of this refusal to enter into a reasonable transition agreement."

Buffalo Police sent in a SWAT team, tank and officers armed with riot gear as a precautionary measure.

All 10 arrested Occupy Buffalo members appeared in City Court Thursday morning for their arraignment. 
Protestors will be allowed to protest, but must not camp-out in Niagara Square over night.  Judge James McLeod stressed that first amendment rights of free speech and assembly come with certain limits. The judge agreed to drop all charges in 6 months if the 10 protestors do not challenge his order not to camp out within 3 miles of the Square. 

John Washington was arrested and promises to follow the judge's order..

"As of right now, yes, I will abide by not camping within a three mile radius of Niagara Square," said Washington.

WBFO News reporter Michael Mroziak asked Washington if the occupy members would consider setting up a protest outside the three mile area of Niagara Square.

"I will never exclude that as a possibility. 

At least one Occupy member used an Android phone to take video of the police action in Niagara Square of the eviction.  Click the link to watch the Occupy video. http://www.ustream.tv/embed/recorded/20165687.

"The city has come in and destroyed everything," said John Curr, Regional director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Curr spoke out against the city's decision to dismantle the Occupy Buffalo camp.  John Curr said the city reneged on a "good faith" agreement that occupy members honored for the last four months.

"A renewal offer did not resemble what it required to offer Occupy Buffalo who had a right to renew the previous agreement until the 11th hour and 59th minute believed they were going to have an opportunity to sign," said Curr. 

Curr called the city's actions "reprehensible."




Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.