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Small-scale protest in Buffalo joins nationwide movement against racial violence

Tashani Wiggins (@TashtheCreator)

A nationwide movement to fight racially-motivated violence and discrimination, promoted on social media as “Blackout America,” made its way to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.The “Blackout Buffalo” protest turned out to be a small-scale event with about 20 people in attendance. Participants gathered at Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake around 2 p.m. and marched down Elmwood Avenue to the Bidwell Parkway area.

Event co-organizer Tashani Wiggins of Buffalo said black people face racial injustice every day in different aspects of their lives. She said a lot of people in Buffalo believe that it “is not that bad,” and “we don’t really have racism here in Buffalo.” She said many are just not aware of what’s going on, and hoped that the “Blackout” event would encourage residents to research the issue, pay more attention to the news, and bring attention to the city.

When asked about the incidents she’s seen that lead her to believe it is an issue, Wiggins pointed to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Speaking from her own experience, Wiggins said “I can talk about a while ago when my boss used a racial slur against me, or I can talk about just seeing black people not represented in the media the way they should be, or removed, or our culture appropriated. There’s many different ways that you face racism every day.”

Wiggins posted a mission statement to the event’s Twitter page, stating “We are raising awareness for black unity, equality and strategies to combat state-sanctioned, racially-motivated violence against black people.”

As far as strategies being promoted, Wiggins highlighted the use of body cameras for law enforcement officers.

“We’ve seen several black people die this year on camera,” said Wiggins. “I know that I see it often, black people dying on camera by police hands. So it’s not a way to stop it, but that is a good way to slow it down, because not many police officers feel comfortable committing crimes on camera.”

Wiggins said another method is to have “stricter rules on police enforcement.”

“They shouldn’t be able to get away with assaulting people and killing people,” said Wiggins. “They’re committing crimes that if a civilian we’re doing these things, they’d be locked up. They’re getting away with these things with paid suspension.”

Wiggins said those stricter rules should be complemented by “punishing our police officers when they commit crimes.”

Wiggins said she has not faced any personal experiences of police violence, and estimated that Buffalonians are “lucky” for having law enforcement officers that are not as violent as those in areas like New York City and southern states.

Along with the event’s mission, Wiggins posted that the goal was “To pressure the government into responding to and acting on the cry for racial equality while inciting and deploying citizens to join our fight for equality.” Wiggins said she had not been in touch with elected officials or representatives of local law enforcement to discuss issues of equality and violence, but hoped they would be present at the protest.