Falls Protest Ends with Taking a Knee

"It turned out to be an awesome event" says Falls Police Chief

Tom Puckett
June 02, 2020 - 4:00 am
Sunday Night Protest in Niagara Falls

The Action

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Niagara Falls, NY (WBEN) There were concerns among police and leaders in Niagara Falls a protest Sunday night would have the same violent result as the one in Buffalo the night before. By the end of the night, leaders say it turned into a rally with a peaceful ending.

"We started getting some information early in the day there was something going to happen and it would not be a peaceful protest. There were threats of burning down the police station and looting," says Niagara Falls Police Chief Tom Licata. Licata had been monitoring the protest and later came down to speak with the protesters. "We told them this is exactly how it's supposed to be. You can make your point known, you're exercising your constitutional right and you can stay here as long as you wish as long as it's not violent," explains Licata. "It turned out to be an awesome event."

Protesters said police and law enforcement should show some solidarity. "Once we got down there and talking to them, we felt this is a lawful protest, your points are made, we agree, and if taking a knee needs to show you that, we're with you and we just did it," says Licata.

Acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti says he too was watching the protest from Hyde Park to Police headquarters. "Somebody was hearing they were upset about George Floyd, and they wanted to be heard. I said, the crowd is peaceful, they're doing what we're asking them, let's go down and talk with them," says Filicetti. "We broke through the line and we started a conversation with them and they asked us to take a knee with them, and the significance was we understood their plight. That's why I along the with chief of police and the mayor took a knee with them."

Filicetti says the key factor was the protesters were peaceful. "I will not listen to people who are looting, causing property damage. That is not helping, that is not moving us forward," explains Filicetti.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino says he wsa prepared for the sites initially listed as target areas. "But as the night went on, the frustration seemed to build over the fact they weren't engaging. Our law enforcement officers were very professional in keeping their composure," says Restaino

Restaino says he ultimately chose to go the protest site and engage with protesters, along with Licata and Filicetti. "I think that what each of us believed going in, this was more than having a conversation, there had to be some action, and the action requested was simply we engaged in. I think truly once that occurred, it changed the focus of the gathering. It allowed us to have an open dialogue," says Restaino of taking a knee. "It really changed the temperature of the environment."

Restaino adds the event ended more like a celebration. "I saw lights and dancing, so we were able to turn what was a protest into a rally. The punctuating point was the very people for whom these protested had arrived to protest were actually engaged in a fist bump line to say good night," says Restaino.

 

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