BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Demonstrations like the one Sunday evening in Elmwood that drew more than 100 people are part of the job for Annie Krause, the executive director for Stronger Together for WNY.
And so, when she sees violence and hatred associated with rallies and counter protests like the country witnessed in Charlottesville, Va., it gives her pause — but only briefly. She, like many others, believe it could happen in Buffalo.
“My concern is that it will happen again. People will feel emboldened and do it again,” Krause said. “It only makes me feel more resolute in my determination to say ‘no, you’re not welcome here.’ That kind of way of being is not welcome here at all.”
In addition to standing together in Western New York, Krause and the more than 100 people who showed up at Elmwood and Bidwell avenues were standing with counter protestors hundreds of miles away, especially family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was run down by the driver of this car, now charged with second-degree murder.
Pastor George Nicholas brought his family to the Elmwood rally, saying he hopes for more active and public denials of racism and bigotry.
“We need to speak up. We can no longer stay behind our doors and shake our heads in disgust,” Nicholas said. “We have to stand up and let people know this is not going to be tolerated in our country anymore.”
Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen watched in horror as Saturday’s events unfolded on television. But he said he saw a silver lining.
“The people who were fighting for the freedoms of everybody, many of them were not people of color. And for me, that was huge, and it said a lot,” he said. “So for me, that said we’ve come a long way. You know, where people will say, this set us back. I say this proved how far we’ve come.”
Pridgen said he respects any group’s right to assembly.
“You can’t stop it, and you shouldn’t stop it,” he said. “We and people in the United States have a right to assemble. I want to be clear, I have no problem with the assembly of the Klu Klux Klan or white supremacists or any other group in America. That’s why we’re here.”
He also said he disagrees with some who have said in the past 48 hours counter protestors share the blame in the violence that spread through the streets of Charlottesville.
“If they (counter protestors) struck first, they were at fault. If they were struck, if they were attacked, then they were protecting themselves,” he said. “At the end of the day, they didn’t create this rally. They responded to this rally.”
Pridgen and County Executive Mark Poloncarz will host a city wide rally in solidarity with the victims of Charlottesville this week. It will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Durham Memorial AME Zion church, located at 175 East Eagle St. The event is expected to last about an hour.