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'White Lives Matter' rally in Buffalo outnumbered by 300+ protesters

Hundreds of counterprotesters outnumbered a handful of people who arrived Saturday in Buffalo's Cazenovia Park  for what was billed as a "White Lives Matter" rally.

The rally was announced by the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi organization headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. No officers from NSM came forward to speak in Buffalo. Local white supremacy sympathizer Karl Hand did show up, though, passing out leaflets disputing claims of police brutality.

"I didn't organize it. I was just invited to speak," said Hand, who had asked reporters if they had seen the event planners.

More than 300 activists were already on site to counter the rally, many bearing a variety of flags and signs denouncing racism and Nazism. For the most part, the protest was loud but peaceful, watched closely by a large group of Buffalo Police officers. 

There was, however, one fight involving a man wearing a green-colored "White Pride" t-shirt. He exchanged punches with at least one counterprotester. No one was seriously hurt though the shirt was torn during the fight.

Riley Oates put himself between the combatants to break up the fight, telling the counterprotester to avoid violence.

"Black Lives Matter tried to stop a white supremacist guy," Oates explained. "Even if he is a white supremacist guy and you disagree with that, he has a right to say what he's saying."

Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder also spoke to the crowd urging non-violent behavior. 

"Some people have an agenda," Schroeder said. "Others were here just to be here to understand that we are peace-loving people and we have a responsibility to each other."

Hand, meanwhile, found himself in face-to-face verbal exchanges with demonstrators and soon left the park. Among those who came to hear what might be said at the rally was Simon Black, who told WBFO he is frustrated by the backlash received when suggesting "all lives matter." He spoke of his concern for the violent tone set by the "group think, group act" culture by leftist organizations.

"I feel like it's a statement to me like I should just lay down and die, and I don't want to," he said. "That's why I try to tell them 'all lives matter,' but I get told over and over again 'you are tone deaf, you are racist.' I get called racist just for saying all lives matter."

Black told WBFO he was unaware of the event organizer's neo-Nazi connections at first, but denounced them for it. He expressed his concern, though, for what he sees as similarities in behavior between socialist movements and those who sympathize with Black Lives Matter.

"Go look at Mao Zedong. Go look at any of these leftists. This is the street thuggery tactics that they use to intimidate people out of the spectrum, so that your voice no longer gets heard," Black said.

No representatives of NSM ultimately stepped forward to be identified or to speak officially. 

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke was another elected official who came to speak in protest of the rally. His wife is of Puerto Rican background.

He told WBFO that the National Socialist Movement planned this Buffalo rally to spread an ideology that they deemed not popular enough in this region. Burke says it never will be.

"When I found out this was happening, I looked and thought about who in my community it might be. I couldn't think of anyone, and the reason for that is that the people who came and decided to do a white supremacist rally aren't from here," Burke said.

"They're not from South Buffalo. They're not from the City of Buffalo. They don't belong here, and their values are not in line with the people here."

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(WARNING: Some language featured on clothing and background chatter in this video may be offensive to some.)


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.
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