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Occupy Buffalo members: end of camp isn't end of movement

The encampment in Niagara Square is no more, but members of Occupy Buffalo are vowing to continue their protests.  They will not be allowed, however, to establish any more permanent camps on city grounds.

As part of the city's offer to drop disorderly conduct charges against ten protestors arrested during an overnight eviction from Niagara Square, the protestors agree not to encamp within a three mile radius of Niagara Square.  If they comply, the charges will be dropped on July 2.

Mayor Byron Brown, at a Thursday news conference in City Hall, said protestors should also not count on establishing camps on any other municipal grounds, even outside the radius.

"The city has an ordinance against camping in public places, so we're not going forward with going to allow any camping out in any public place in the City of Buffalo," Mayor Brown said.

Gathered outside the mayor's office during the news conference were several members of the Occupy Buffalo movement, who vow to continue their protests, even without an established base.

"We don't need one.  We're going to occupy everything.  This right now is an occupation," said member Dan Tritto.

Why, after several months of allowing Occupy Buffalo to maintain its camp in Niagara Square, did the city decide it was time to evict them?  Their agreement expired at the stroke of midnight, as the date changed to February 2.   Mayor Brown told reporters that the Occupy movement chose to decline an agreement that would have allowed them to stay through early March.  The protestors, however, say the city kept changing the terms during the course of negotiations and gave its general assembly little time to reach a consensus.

Mayor Brown acknowledged what he described as a "professional" relationship with Occupy Buffalo, something not seen in many other cities.  So why the overnight show of force to evict them? 

"We didn't anticipate violence but we prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and we got the best," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Dan Derenda. "It was very peaceful.  No issues whatsoever but we were prepared for whatever would face us and we were prepared."

Ask Occupy members about this 'professional' relationship and it's clear it is strained, if not severed.  So can it be healed?

"It would take a lot of hard work through both groups to extend good faith back and forth," said Occupy Buffalo member Robert Albini.  "I think a lot more's going to have to come from their end before we're going to move back towards them."

So what's next?

"My plan is to go unload a truck that's full of my stuff, that I had to move out at midnight last night,  out of my tent where I've been living for the past four months," said Albini. "And I'm going to take a shower and take a nap and then you'll probably see my face in Niagara Square every day."

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.