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Not welcome here: Local anti-violence leader decries looting

Thomas O'Neil-White

The death of George Floyd while in police custody has ignited protests across the country. In downtown Buffalo on Saturday, what began as a peaceful protest later turned into a night of vandalism in parts of the city.

While authorities work to figure out who is responsible for the late night looting, a community stakeholder is hoping the spirit of the protest is not lost. Back 2 Basics Outreach Ministries President and CEO Pastor James Giles described what he saw during Saturday's protest.


“After the walk I saw elements,” he said. “I saw elements emerging that represent a different type of protest. These were the individuals that were used to inciting riots.”

Giles and members of his Peacemakers group were on hand Saturday to help keep the peace between Buffalo police officers and protesters. 


“We show up at these spaces to make sure, to the best of our abilities, to maintain this level of care for each other, that we don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” Giles said.


With much of the attention from the protest has centered on the resulting vandalism. Giles wants to focus on the reasons for the protest and admonished rabble-rousers for changing the narrative.


“You turned what happened to George Floyd into something personal and degrading and negative” he said. “That is now hurting the community at large.”


Giles said local justice groups plan to organize around the message of there being no place for the looter element in this community.


Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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