Law enforcement presence to increase this weekend in Lewiston
By Terry Duffy
Amidst all the excitement building this week for the 62nd Niagara County Peach Festival, area residents received unexpected news in the form of flyers promoting the anticipated presence of the “Honorable White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” at this weekend’s festival in Academy Park.
“Come join us in historically white Lewiston, NY at the 62nd Annual Peach Festival to celebrate America’s white communities. Feel free to approach our members who will be making their presence known, if you would like to join our White Pride Movement,” the flyer reads. “We look forward to meeting you Academy Park in Lewiston on Saturday, September 7, 2019.”
The document came in a plain white envelope with a Rochester postmark. It was mailed to select addresses in the Lewiston area, including to Lewiston Kiwanians. Their club organizes the annual festival.
Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte said he has “no credible information at all” as to any protests being planned by “White Pride” sympathizers or any other groups. He said police do not believe the flyer was “generated by the KKK or any organization, nor is there any assembly or rally that will take place.
“The use of Academy Park grounds has been given to Lewiston Kiwanis for their festival and will be used solely for this purpose.”
In a prepared statement, Kiwanis Club of Lewiston President Marty Pauly said “Police authorities from the Town of Lewiston have made the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston aware of a flyer that was recently distributed, similar to ones sent out prior to other events in Lewiston and surrounding communities, containing vile and hateful rhetoric. The Kiwanis Club of Lewiston have been assured the situation is being monitored by area police, and as always the Niagara County Peach Festival will maintain a safe and family oriented atmosphere for attendees.
“We’re aware of it, and we are working with local law enforcement, including the Lewiston Police.”
Pauly said area law enforcement would have patrols throughout this weekend’s festival events, including those at Academy Park and at Saturday’s Peach Festival Parade on Center Street. “They are handling this,” he said.
“We believe that this letter was generated by an individual(s) who has done this in the past and has their own agenda and not any organization,” Previte said. “We have also been actively investigating threats made in reaction to this flyer and have identified two isolated individuals who are being interviewed by law enforcement.”
Previte continued, “The flyer itself was reviewed by the department in consultation with the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office and was determined to be covered under the First Amendment and not in violation of any existing laws.”
Previte said his department, together with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police, are handling the matter.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.
Previte noted police are looking into two individuals, one from the Buffalo area, and the other from Rochester. Of releasing their identities, Previte said police investigations into the two are continuing and their names remain unavailable.
He did say that Scott Lacy of Niagara Falls, a “White Pride” sympathizer who has been associated in the past with racially oriented material distributed in the Lewiston and Porter areas, is not connected with the latest flyers.
“He has nothing to do with this,” Previte said.
As to this weekend’s event, area police are preparing accordingly.
“Law enforcement will have higher visibility this year,” Previte said, explaining festival attendees will see Lewiston police officers, a K-9 patrol, as well as Niagara County Sheriff’s Office deputies and State Police out in force throughout the weekend.
Despite the flyer’s sentiment, Previte said, “It is never acceptable to threaten violence as an answer.”
“I want to assure everyone that we are working together with our local law enforcement partners to ensure that this event is the safe, tolerant, accepting and family environment that it has been for the past 62 years,” he added,
Previte urged residents and festival visitors to contact the Lewiston Police at 716-754-8477 with any questions or concerns.