Religious leaders react to violent weekend protests

INSIDE: Hear from Rev. Pointer and Rev. Pridgen

A scene from the May 30 protest in Niagara Square

WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - "It's tragic that our right to assemble is overshadowed by a small group of people who came and intentionally engaged in thug-like behavior." The Rev. Kinzer Pointer of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church in Buffalo reacting to the violence and unrest at Saturday's protest in Buffalo. The protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis started peacefully but turned violent with vandalism, looting and fires. 

"We need to make a distinction between peaceful protests and mob-like activity which is a cover for criminal activity," said Pointer.  "We saw peaceful protests around the country, But in each instance where there was deterioration, we saw a small subset of people who came for the purpose of doing what they did."

Rev. Pointer says it's unfortunate and tragic when a few police officers determine they will no longer uphold the law.  He said that's what happened in Minneapolis.

"It's important for us to separate the two." And he said we have to be extremely diligent and not paint all officers with a broad brush.

The Rev. Darius Pridgen of Buffalo's True Bethel Baptist Church said he's heard from a number of people who attended the protest.

"What I am so proud of, is hearing how upset people were, when others started to destroy property."  

Pridgen was asked about a video from University Plaza that shows twenty-somethings smashing into a store and stealing sneakers. "I don't think the sneaker store incident had anything to do with the people upset with national policing. When you break into a sneaker store, it has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter or the need for reform, they were stealing. At the end of the day it was a theft of opportunity while the city was burning. There is no excuse for that and I have no tolerance for that," said Pridgen.

At the same time, Pridgen, the Buffalo Common Council President said he loves the fact that people called out that behavior on social media.

The only way forward, Pridgen says, is a change of policy. "It's like you have to choose a side right now. You're either anti-police or you're for police. We've got to have a policy that protects everybody."

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