Dozens of people showed up Sunday night in different parts of Niagara Falls to protest the untimely death of George Floyd.
Prior to the rally, local store owners preemptively boarded windows in an attempt to prevent looting. Earlier in the day, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced the arrest of 10 individuals who were responsible for property damage caused at Saturday night protests.
Unlike what happened primarily in the City of Buffalo, however, this event was manageable. Niagara Falls demonstrators were said to be respectful of the law.
A Facebook post from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office stated, “Thank you for your support tonight as the protesting has subsided in the City of Niagara Falls. Fortunately the protesting was peaceful and no one was injured nor property damaged. We have a great partnership with law enforcement in Niagara County.”
Those on hand to speak with crowd members included City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino and NCSO Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti.
Additional law enforcement agencies on site included those from Niagara Falls and Lewiston. Officers were stationed in front of City Hall, along the NFPD station on Main Street, and at the City of Niagara Falls School District on 66th Street. Patrol cars also monitored in and around the parking lots at the Fashion Outlets mall and Walmart.
LPD Chief Frank Previte said, “We made it through the night without incident.”
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said, “Our law enforcement did such a great job. The residents, too. I'm just so impressed at how peaceful things remained. There were certainly some tense moments that could have gone in a different direction, but … it ended in basically a street dance party – and a line of residents fist-bumping police officers and thanking them on their way home. It really was great to see.”
Floyd, a black man, died last Monday in Minneapolis. 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.
(Photos by Mark Williams Jr.)
Speaking Monday afternoon on LCTV, Wydysh said, “We are all horrified, of course, by what we saw in those videos.”
She explained, “We have a right to protest in this country; we have a right to yell and scream and make our voices heard and make our feelings known. But we need to do it peacefully. And that's what happened in Niagara Falls. And I cannot say enough today about what I witnessed last night with that crowd, and the way they were able to let everyone know why they were there, and what they wanted, and needing to be heard. And I watched our law enforcement agencies interact with them, and talk to them, and really want to learn from each other.
“And again, I want to thank all of you that were out there last night for keeping it a peaceful situation, and not seeing some of the devastating riots and situations that were happening – not just across the state, but across the country.
“So again, thank you to everyone who was out last night. I think it's wonderful that you want your voices heard and that you're out there and telling everyone how you feel; but it's even more wonderful that you were able to do so peacefully.”
Also on Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for standardized police misconduct policies across America. He said federal and state governments should pass laws requiring police misconduct investigations be conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors. He called on the federal government to define excessive force by a police officer by one standard all across the nation.
Cuomo also advocated for the release of disciplinary records of officers who are accused of misconduct. He also argued every public school should provide the same level of funding for each child so there are not two education systems – one for the rich and one for the poor.
"The real issue is the continuing racism in this country and it is chronic and it is endemic and it is institutional and it speaks to a collective hypocrisy," Cuomo said. "We're very good in this country at telling other people how they should live their lives and how they should act, but we still discriminate on the basis of color of skin. That is the simple, painful truth – but this is a moment for truth. Our challenge today is to use this moment, use this energy constructively and demand real positive change. And articulate what the change is that we want.
“George Floyd must not have died in vain. Mr. Floyd's killing must be a moment in which this nation actually learned and grew and progressed to make this place a better place."
At the request of local officials, Cuomo deployed additional New York State Police officers to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany in advance of planned protests in those cities. The National Guard was put on standby.