BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- No Pledge of Allegiance for Buffalo Common Council member Ulysees Wingo.
For the second time, the Masten District leader stood fist in the air, taking a stand against police killings of unarmed black men.
The first time he stood in silent protest was following the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by police in Tulsa.
“Institutionalized racism is real. No one else, if you’re not black, has to live a black life and deal with micro-aggressions on a daily basis but a black person,” Wingo told News 4.
He’s been criticized for what some feel is a sign of disrespect to the flag.
Prior to Wingo’s silent protest, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was criticized for refusing to stand for the National Anthem. Kaepernick, who has continued his protest, is also making a statement about police brutality in black communities across the country.
“This is not about any disrespect. This is about bringing attention to an issue that we all feel is systemic in our country,” Wingo said, citing his father and uncles are all war veterans.
During Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, Council member Wingo wasn’t alone; dozens joined him, holding up fists during the Pledge.
“I’m extremely proud of Council member Wingo for taking a stand for justice,” Open Buffalo’s Franchelle Hart told News 4. She was one of Wingo’s supporters in the Common Council Chambers, sporting a “I stand with Wingo” sticker on her shirt.
While Wingo’s symbol got a lot of kudos, he admits, it’s about more than that. So do his supporters.
“We want to make sure that that never happens in Buffalo and we’re going to do that through engagement and conversations with the powers that be,” Pastor James Giles said.
Wingo chairs the Education Committee and also works in city schools with students. He said setting an example for young people, especially young black men, is part of the solution.
The other part though, he said, is for all leaders to recognize there is a problem.
“This is not about law enforcement. We need the law. We need police. This is about those individuals who refuse to value lives period,” Wingo said during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.
Council member David Rivera spoke in support of Wingo, though he didn’t join him in protest. Rivera, who has a history in law enforcement, said Wingo’s gesture has started an important dialogue that’s long overdue.