Activists reflect on Buffalo protests one-year later

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — This weekend marks one year since violent protests erupted in the City of Buffalo.

Hundreds gathered in Niagara Square on May 30 calling for police reform, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Things started out peaceful, but as the sun went down police told protesters to go home — agitators stayed behind, turning frustrations into violence.

Businesses on Niagara, Elmwood, and Main Street were damaged or broken into and Buffalo City Hall was defaced.

Since that night, community leaders have been working to reform local police and repairing relationships in the City of Buffalo.

One community organizer we spoke with says the progress over the last year to make the community better has been slow and steady but that some changes were made.

News 4 caught up with Kartika Carr, who is one of the lead organizers at Voice Buffalo.

She describes last summer’s protests as one of the craziest times in her organizing career. And says a big win for them was the passing of Cariol’s Law, which protects police officers who step in to prevent other officers from using excessive force.

Between voice buffalo and other community activist groups, they were also able to remove undercover cops and off-duty police officers from schools.

She says every protest and gathering that took place this past year in the city helped lead to these changes.

“That organizing matters and that people showing up matters. I think often times we think that incremental change is small, but it matters. Showing up and calling your council folks and public officials, writing letters, protesting, disrupting meetings, just being and taking up space, it works it matters and people watch and they listen,” said Integrated Voter Engagement Lead Organizer for Voice Buffalo, Kartika Carr.

Other changes include implementing the program lead, which stands for law enforcement-assisted diversion. This helps keep people out of jail for poverty-related crimes and instead offers those individuals resources.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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