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Before another Hertel protest, prayers and a message to would-be antagonists

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Hours before a scheduled racial justice protest on Hertel Avenue, a half dozen local pastors were gathered in the North Buffalo neighborhood to pray for praceful demonstrations, but also to send a message to outside agitators planning to show up: your antics will not be tolerated.

Led by Buffalo Common Council President and head of True Bethel Baptist Church, Bishop Darius Pridgen invited the other clergy to speak. First to step up to the microphone was Rev. Kinzer Pointer of Liberty Missionary Baptist Church. He was the first of the pastors to state that while they were there for prayer, they were also appearing to relay another message.

"Let the word go forth to friend and foe alike. If you come into the City of Buffalo intending to do mischief, we will be here to oppose your mischief," he said.

One week prior, marchers were confronted by two men. One of them, as captured on video and still photography, held a knife during the confrontation. A Franklinville man is now charged in relation to that confrontation.

Earlier this week, another march was greeted by patrons of a Hertel Avenue bar, MT Pockets, who are alleged to have uttered racial slurs and related insults toward the demonstrators. The bar has since closed, amid complaints by city and county officials of patrons not honoring COVID-related distancing and wearing of masks.

Reverend Kenneth Simmons of Cold Spring Bible Chapel in Buffalo added to the message of intolerance for trouble, saying the Black community will also no longer tolerate lack of respect for the dignity of their lives.

"We're no longer asking for you to respect us as Black men, Black women, Black people. We are demanding that we are respected as African-Americans, wherever we go, anywhere in the City of Buffalo," he said. "We will no longer ask pastors to take a back seat to any racism or social injustice that happens here in our city."

Pastors appearing Friday pointed to a diverse number of businesses along the North Buffalo strip, including the soul food restaurant, Je Ne Sai Quoi, outside of which they stood.

"Hertel Avenue is a home for all of the citizens of Buffalo, and has been over the years the iconic destination where people from all cultures and backgrounds could come and mingle," Pointer said. "I understand that we are in this protest moment, and we need to hold up peaceful protests amongst citizens. That's a basic American activity. But when outsiders come into our community, as agent provocateurs, white supremacists and other elements to cause disruptions, that forces us to stop the buisiness of pastoral work and address the evil that has come into our humanity. So we're here today to tell this entire community, all of Western New York and even beyond that, while we are disciples of the Prince of Peace, we will not stand for evil running rampant in our community."

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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