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Mayor Brown: Police investigation underway into Wednesday hit-and-run at Buffalo protest

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Thursday that an investigation is underway into the hit-and-run perpetrated by the driver of a pickup truck who sped into a crowd of protestors in Niagara Square Wednesday night.

The driver injured one person whom WBFO and other local media outlets identified Wednesday as a legal observer, which Brown said he could not confirm.

“It is my understanding that someone associated with the protest was struck by a vehicle. The police know, of course, who was in the vehicle,” Brown said. “They know about the incidents related to that protest and there is an investigation that’s being conducted by the Buffalo Police Department, the accident investigation unit, and the district attorney’s office.”

Brown also said the investigation was looking into “a number of incidents” that transpired during the demonstration, though he did not offer details on any others besides the hit-and-run. Asked whether there were enough Buffalo police officers at the scene to ensure public safety, Brown said officers were monitoring the situation from a distance in order to respect protestors’ wishes.

“The thing to understand is that every protest is different and every protest organization and group of protestors are different. Some want to work with police, with the Buffalo police, and some want police at a distance,” Brown said. “Part of the mission of the [public protection] detail is to respect peoples’ right to protest and if they want help and if they want assistance, to give it. If they don’t want that kind of help or that kind of assistance, to stay back and to back off.”

“In this case, the belief was protestors wanted police to back off,” Brown continued. “They did not want police in close proximity.”

Brown also urged activists to notify police ahead of planned demonstrations and said protestors did not do so Wednesday. However, WBFO pressed Brown on the notion that protests weren’t expected the same day that a Kentucky grand jury declined to indict two out of three Louisville police officers involved in the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed during a nighttime raid of her apartment and whose name has been a rallying cry in nationwide protests over the past several months. The third officer was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment but not for Taylor’s death.

“This is not Louisville,” Brown said in response to WBFO’s question. “The Breonna Taylor situation was outrageous. It never should have happened. A young woman’s life was needlessly stolen from her, and the decision that was made in Louisville about the conduct of those police officers was heartbreaking. But again, we have to focus on racial equity in this community. We have to focus on improving the delivery of police services and ending any kind of police misconduct in this community.”

Brown added that American citizens have a constitutional right to protest, so long as they do so peacefully. He also said it is never okay to drive into anyone, “for whatever reason.”

“What the motives are [for the hit-and-run?]? I don’t know. That’s why this is under investigation.”

Finally, the mayor also made a belated public announcement Thursday of a change to BPD policy for the identification of individual officers during protests: Buffalo police officers can now wear a badge with their badge identification number instead of a name tag. Brown said the decision was made in an effort to protect officers from online harassment, also known as doxing, and that it went into effect about a week ago but was not made public at the time.

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.
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