On Thursday evening, community leaders shut down traffic in downtown Buffalo at a rally protesting the death of Wardel “Meech” Davis, an unarmed black man who died in police custody the night of February 7th. Here are some of the sights and sounds.

The Buffalo AntiRacism Coalition organized the “RIP Meech!” rally and protest early on Thursday, publicizing the event on Facebook. Word spread quickly that the rally would take place at 695 Main Street, on the corner of Tupper, right in front of the B-District police headquarters, home base for the officers who arrested Mr. Davis the night of his death. Pictured below is one local leader setting the tone a few minutes before 6:00 PM.

By 6:20 PM, more than sixty community members had assembled in front of the police station. In this brief video, two community leaders rouse the audience and lead us in a direct action.

 

Main Street and Tupper is a busy corner. Around 6:30 PM, hundreds of downtown workers beeline to their cars, drive to Tupper, and head east toward the expressway. Imagine the disruption when community members poured into the street blocking the route home. Here’s what civil disobedience looked like.

 

Community power is a sight to behold. It’s not neat and orderly like you see in the movies. It’s messy. It’s loud. It can be dangerous. But it’s powerful, too. And when you see it—when you live it—the moment stays with you; it can define you. I’ll never forget my moment with democracy.

 

Wardel “Meech” Davis is resting in power. In his name, we rallied for justice. Justice for Meech. Justice for all. At the rally, Buffalo truly was the City of Good Neighbors.

Postscript to the Rally

The Buffalo police should be recognized for not responding with violence. While small groups of officers stood by with three-foot long wooden batons, none seemed to threaten members of the rally. Furthermore, they did not mobilize their resources to break lines. In fact, moments after community leaders stormed the intersection, police cars blocked off traffic so that motorists wouldn’t confront activists. The rally would have been very different—very violent—had the police responded aggressively. 

Even more than the Buffalo Police, the Buffalo Peacemakers showed courage and leadership at the rally. Wearing bright yellow shirts, they stood between community leaders and police, serving as a buffer between them. Established in 2013, the Buffalo Peacemakers are a community-based public safety organization, known most prominently for their gang intervention work in neighborhoods on Buffalo’s east side. At mass demonstrations, the Peacemakers disperse through gatherings and attempt to stem outbreaks of violence.

While emotions ran high at the rally, peace prevailed throughout, in large part because the men and women in yellow (and blue) kept us safe.   

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