BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Holding candles, dozens of people stood shoulder-to-shoulder Friday evening at a rally for Ferguson, Missouri in Buffalo’s Niagara Square.
They vented. Some angrily cried out against injustice. Many didn’t hold back, in talking about racism – a topic that’s been simmering under the surface since unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot last weekend in the St. Louis suburb, by a police officer. Brown was black, and the officer was white.
There was no formal agenda or no list of prearranged speakers. Just a chance for regular Western New Yorkers to say what was on their minds.
People talked about the shooting, riots and clashes between police and citizens that have happened over the last week in Ferguson. But they also spoke about broader issues that all cities in America, including Buffalo, face – racial tensions, violence, lack of opportunity for inner city youth and poverty, just to name a few.
“The thing that outraged people in Ferguson so much, one of the things, is the impunity of the person who perpetrated this murder. We didn’t find out who, the identity of that person… until today. Why is that?” one man asked.
“Racism… surfaces every day. But every so often we get a moment like this, when people decide to pay attention to it. When everybody, together, decides to take a look at one specific event that a lot of us have to deal with on a daily basis. And I think that’s a special moment,” said John Washington, one the organizers of the event.
The faces in the crowd were black, white, and Hispanic. They ranged from young to old.
“I’m hoping that the people here would… talk about their frustration, and then find a way that we can relieve the pressure in Buffalo, so we don’t have the same situation here,” said Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.
Grant said she does not believe tensions in this community are at the level they are in Ferguson.
“I believe the frustration here is due to unemployment, young African-American people who don’t have a job,” Grant said.
“The shooting in Kenfield-Langfield was witnessed by over 50 people, but it took days for people to come forward, because they were afraid,” Grant pointed out. “Some of them did not want to work with police officers, because they don’t have the trust of police officers that they should. So I think that this meeting’s good, it’s put some sanity into what is going on. It also gives people an outlet. Before they go out there and take a gun and try to resolve something, they talk it out.”