When Unrest Turns to Violence, How Does it End?

“We don’t know what avenue we need to travel to get change”

Police at Monday's protest on Bailey Ave.
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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - “All of us who are impacted… don’t really know what to do.”

As unrest turns into violence in Buffalo and across the country, both police and protestors are left wondering how the situation can de-escalate.

James Giles works with the Buffalo Peacemakers, and organization that for years has tried to bridge the gap between police and community.

“Many believe that we have marched, we have protested, rallied in the streets, shut streets down… we’ve also rioted,” Giles said. “Violence is not the answer, but I understand people’s frustrations… They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“We don’t really know what avenue we need to travel to get change in this country.”

Despite the anger and desperation, both Giles and Bernie Tolbert, who serves as chairman of the local chapter of the National Federation for Just Communities and is a former Special agent in Charge of the Buffalo FBI, believe that violence doesn’t stem from local activists.

“You have a group of individuals who see this as an opportunity to sow discord,” Tolbert said. “By and large those people who are doing things after curfew hours, those are not the people who feel there is something wrong (in policing).”

“You’ve got people that are plotting,” Giles said. “In my mind, there are individuals who are intentionally coming in to this town to incite riotous behavior… There are people in this country that do not want this movement to succeed. We have to be careful and watchful that we’re not getting caught in to some major plot.”

“I couldn’t agree with Revered Giles more,” Tolbert said. “You see evidence of it. You see people scouting to find out where police are. We see them prepared with incendiary devices. That is the work of organized agitators.”

So how do you stop protests from becoming riots?

While President Trump has advocated for a show of force to combat protest, around the country the opposite approach has been effective.

In Niagara Falls on Sunday night, what could have been a tense situation was diffused when the Niagara county Sheriff, and Niagara Falls Mayor and Police Chief, met with protestors to take a knee and hear their frustration. Instead of the night ending with fire in the streets, it ended with handshakes between protestors and police.

"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,” said acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti.

“We have to find ways to overcome the attitude that we’re going to meet force with force, and try to find ways to build bridges together,” Tolbert said.

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