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State of emergency in Erie County; 10 arrests following Buffalo protest

UPDATED

Sun, May 31st 2020 12:30 pm

National Guard on standby; Cuomo asks AG to review NYC

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn on Sunday afternoon announced the arrest of 10 people following a protest Saturday night in the City of Buffalo. He said his office is investigating general property damage in the downtown area, as well as arson at City Hall, and looting and property damage in Amherst and Kenmore.

The alleged crimes took place following what was described as a peaceful late-afternoon protest of the untimely death of George Floyd last week in Minnesota.

Flynn said he is working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in his investigations.

He also made a point to say it was the instigation of white individuals that fueled the situation.

To those involved in criminal activity – and for anyone considering a similar course of action in the days ahead – Flynn said, “You're not helping anyone. You're not doing anything for the cause. The cause is to change the behavior of what has occurred in Minneapolis, what's occurred statewide, and what's occurred nationwide again. … That's the cause. That's what we need to do.

“How does smashing a liquor store window help that? How does convening at the Galleria Mall help that at all? It doesn’t. It's nonsense. They're not protesters. They're not legitimate. They're criminals. And if I catch them, they’ll be charged as such.”

State of Emergency in Erie County

Earlier in the day, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a state of emergency. An email sent to the press on Sunday afternoon read, in part: “This state of emergency has been declared due to civil unrest manifesting in violent protests, riots and destruction of property within the County of Erie. The public safety of the residents of Erie County is presently imperiled thereby. …

“As the chief executive of the County of Erie, State of New York, I, Mark C. Poloncarz, exercise the authority given me under Section 24 of New York State Executive Law, to preserve the public safety, and hereby render all required and available assistance vital to the security, well-being, and health of the citizens of Erie County.

“I hereby direct all departments and agencies of the County of Erie, to take whatever steps necessary to protect life and property, public infrastructure, and provide such emergency assistance as deemed necessary.

“In addition, in order to protect life and property of the citizens of Erie County and in order to facilitate control of the current emergency, I, Mark C. Poloncarz, the chief executive of the County of Erie, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 24(1) of New York State Executive Law,” established a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday.

Press Secretary Peter Anderson noted, “Essential personnel who are scheduled to work during the curfew hours are EXEMPT and can report to work. These essential employees should carry their work badge or I.D. to identify themselves in the event they are stopped by law enforcement.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the National Guard is on standby to intervene in communities if and when necessary.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said 150 peace keepers would be deployed to Buffalo.

Cuomo Asks Attorney General James to Review Actions & Procedures in New York City

On Saturday, Cuomo announced Attorney General Letitia James will review all actions and procedures used during Friday night's protests in New York City and Brooklyn in response to the death of Floyd and issue a public report within 30 days. The AG's independent review should include a review of both police procedures and crowd actions during the protests.

"We have an injustice in the criminal justice system that is abhorrent. George Floyd's death was not just about George Floyd. These are not individual incidents – and you are blind or in denial if you are still treating each one like a unique situation," Cuomo said. "This nation's history of discrimination and racism dates back hundreds of years and it is what is behind this anger and frustration; but violence cannot be the answer, because it obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission. (Friday) night we saw disturbing violent clashes amidst protests right here in New York City, and I'm asking Attorney General James to review the actions and the procedures that were used (Friday) night, because the public deserves answers and they deserve accountability."

James said, "Peaceful protest is a basic civil right. That right should be protected and guarded. We take the designation to investigate (Friday) night's actions very seriously. We will act independently to seek answers, ensure that the truth is laid bare, and that there is accountability for any wrongdoing. We will be transparent in our findings as we seek accountability for those who did wrong. We are asking anyone with information about (Friday) night, including visual evidence, to please share it with our office so we can take it into account as we proceed with this investigation. Please email [email protected]."

‘Horrendous Killing’

Late Friday night, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie released a joint statement that read, “Tonight has been another night of heartbreak in the wake of the horrendous killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protests have been unfolding across the country and here in New York. Let’s be clear – the reason for the protests themselves is warranted and too familiar. Tonight, two members of the Legislature, who stood in solidarity with the protesters in a peaceful manner and who were trying to help to calm the situation, were pepper sprayed and one was put in handcuffs. Our hope is the heartfelt demonstrations do not lead to more violence, injuries or worse. From what we have witnessed, there must be better coordinated efforts to help de-escalate tensions and allow for our citizens to protest injustices.”

Also on Friday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued a statement that read, “As a black man, a father, an uncle and as the Mayor of Buffalo for 15 years, I have watched a whole generation of black children grow up and what I saw on the video of George Floyd’s arrest was deeply disturbing and painful. After years of protest and calls for change situations like this must stop occurring.

“What happened to George Floyd was a brutal act that senselessly ended his life and people are justifiably angry. However, the pain that people are feeling in Minneapolis, Buffalo and in communities across our nation should not result in violence and vandalism. We must come together and build a community of justice rather than needlessly destroy our own neighborhoods and businesses.

“In Buffalo we have trained every officer as a community police officer to establish better community-police relations, we have equipped our officers with body cameras for greater accountability and diversified our police department to be more representative of the community our officers serve. These actions and others are building blocks in our goal to provide the highest quality police services to our community. That is how we will get through this as a City of Good Neighbors.

“My prayers, as well as those of our entire community, go out to the family and friends of George Floyd and our hope for justice in this situation and systemic change in our nation remains unwavering.”

Backstory

Floyd, a black man, died Monday. He had been arrested and was in the custody of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, at the time of his death. Chauvin was captured on film with his knee on Floyd’s neck. He was subsequently charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law – as was Floyd.

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