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Massive Buffalo protest Saturday calls for concrete police reforms

A week after protests began in Buffalo over the police killing of George Floyd, one of the largest crowds yet gathered in Niagara Square Saturday evening to call for concrete police reforms.Unlike last Saturday, the protest was entirely peaceful and unmarked by property damage or physical altercations with police officers. That's despite a tumultuous 48 hours in Buffalo, during which two police officers were suspended without pay and charged with felony assault for pushing 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground, as well as the mass resignation of the Buffalo Police Department's Emergency Response Team (BPD ERT) in protest of the charges.

Marielle Smith, a community organizer for Black Love Resists in the Rust (BLRR), which co-organized Saturday's protest with the Buffalo chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), said she was pleased with how the event unfolded.

"We knew people were taking to the streets, especially after what happened to Martin on Thursday," Smith said. "We know how to organize these type of things. I think it came out very beautifully."

The crowd of several hundred if not over 1,000 protestors gathered in Niagara Square starting around 6 p.m. Many attendees carried signs that read "End White Silence" and "Defund the Police." Organizers then led the group in a march down Delaware Avenue, where the crowd paused outside the Erie County Holding Center and filled the entire block from West Eagle Street to Church Street.

BLRR and SURJ organizers also listed specific demands for city leaders, including the establishment of independent investigations into police violence and continuing plans to close the Erie County Holding Center, where activists say 30 people have died in custody since Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard took office.

After the official end of the BLRR and SURJ rally, a smaller but substantial group of protestors remained in Niagara Square past the city curfew of 8 p.m. The group continued marching throughout parts of downtown Buffalo and Allentown until around 10 p.m. before peacefully disbanding. WBFO reporters noted significantly less police presence in Niagara Square Saturday compared to past evenings, and police did not enforce the curfew, which has been lifted as of Sunday afternoon.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.