Erie County declares State of Emergency, enacts curfew following protest

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ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) – Following a day of protests that turned violent, Erie County issued a State of Emergency from 10:30 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, and Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo spoke to the public about the protests early Sunday morning.

Mayor Brown strongly condemned protesters who engaged in violence and looting.

“There is no call, no place, for breaking windows, for setting vehicles on fire, for pulling people out of cars and beating them. There is no place for violence and vandalism to express your opinion, to make your point,” said Mayor Brown, who also thanked protesters who rallied peacefully on Saturday.

The day started with a mostly peaceful protest in Niagara Square around 4 p.m. The protest grew to about several hundred people by 5 p.m. They came to stand in solidarity with George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minnesota.

Captain Rinaldo said the protest turned violent after the protesters broke into smaller factions.

The Mayor addressed the man who was caught on video throwing a flaming box through a window into Buffalo City Hall during the protests.

“We have you on camera, you idiot! We are going to find you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law,” the Mayor said. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz confirmed the fire did cause damage to part of City Hall, while adding “thankfully, not much.”

Poloncarz also praised the police officers for their job during the rally.

“I want to commend all of our law enforcement for the professional way they handled it tonight,” said the Erie County Executive.

Captain Jeff Rinaldo confirmed that multiple windows were broken in the Main Street corridor, Grant Street, Niagara Street, and other areas in the city. Rinaldo said dozens of businesses suffered damage to their property. He also confirmed that a man was taken out of his vehicle and beaten. Rinaldo said that man is recovering at the Erie County Medical Center.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 23 years. I’ve never seen this in this city and I hope to never see it again,” said Captain Rinaldo.

There have been seven arrests made in connection to the protests, according to Rinaldo. He says the charges include inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, and criminal mischief.

Rinaldo said more arrests were pending as of 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Poloncarz said officials will make a decision on Sunday afternoon about whether there will be a curfew for Sunday evening. He confirmed officials are making plans in the event of additional protests on Sunday.

In an earlier news conference, Mayor Brown said it seemed that a lot of people in the rally, when it turned violent, were from outside Buffalo.

The Mayor said that windows were broken at the Statler building, cars were vandalized, and people were throwing rocks and bottles at police officers.

“The vast majority of the protesters earlier were peaceful, we expected them to be peaceful. Also, we’re getting intelligence that people were coming from outside this area with nothing but violence on their mind,” Brown said.

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

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