No plans for weekend curfew in Erie County

Poloncarz calls Thursday incident with Buffalo Police "wholly unacceptable"

Mike Baggerman
June 05, 2020 - 8:11 pm
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. June 5, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. June 5, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has no plans to announce a countywide curfew this weekend in response to the unrest that has no sign of slowing down.

In a news conference Friday, Poloncarz said he does not anticipate needing to announce a curfew but said he is continuing to consult with law enforcement.

“It’s not just been the City of Buffalo Police that have been in the City of Buffalo, there have been representatives from Amherst and Cheektowaga and other units from across the region have helped back them up in those communities,” Poloncarz said.

The county executive expects more protests during the weekend. All of the protests have begun peacefully in the region, but some days saw the protests become riots. Last Saturday, the protest turned into rioting in Buffalo with a woman attacked in her car, a van set on fire, and a man trying to light Buffalo City Hall on Fire. Another protest on Monday saw looting and rioting on Bailey Avenue in Buffalo, the arrests of eight people, and three police officers who were injured after an SUV rammed through a blockade.

Poloncarz said he has no objection to people protesting peacefully every day if they feel the need to do so. Still, he said a curfew is a difficult balancing act because there have been wholly peaceful protests, but also protests that turned into danger.

“The pawn shop across the street from the library had been looted (Saturday) and 13 weapons were taken including live ammunition, including an AR-15,” Poloncarz said. “…You have to weigh it and think is it appropriate for a curfew. I have no interest in ever implementing a curfew. I said that the day I implemented it.”

He said the curfew has kept the peace at times but also acknowledged that it interfered with people’s rights.

Much of Poloncarz’ update on Friday was in response to the encounter between Buffalo Police and Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester who was shoved by Buffalo Police while they were clearing out Niagara Square. Gugino hit his head on the pavement in front of City Hall and bled.

Gugino is expected to survive and the two police officers who pushed him were suspended without pay.

The police department’s emergency response team all resigned from the team Friday. The 57 members of that team are still employed with the department.

Poloncarz did not know of the resignations until midway through his news conference. He said he will consult with local police to determine whether the National Guard needs to be called in for crowd control.

“I’m disappointed to hear if the officers resigned because they are swearing when they become officers to serve and protect and to uphold the law,” he said. “It’s not to uphold the laws as they choose in that instant. It’s to uphold the law and ensure what they do, not only preventing criminals from entering into criminal activity, but ensuring they don’t do criminal activity that may be criminal in nature.”

Poloncarz said the officers involved should be fired from their jobs but stopped short of directly saying they should be charged criminally. Instead, he said he hopes that Erie County District Attorney John Flynn “does the right thing”.

The county executive said the Gugino incident was “wholly unavoidable” by the police department.

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