BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Emotions ran high at Sunday afternoon’s protests along Bidwell Parkway in the City of Buffalo.
Colonial Circle was the epicenter of the demonstrations as supporters of President Donald Trump’s gathered to voice their support while members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter and the mask-wearing group Antifa stood just feet away chanting expletives and anti-Trump sentiments. Pro-Trump protestors responded with chants of “USA” and singings of the National Anthem, though several did hurl expletives back at the other demonstrators.
Buffalo Police had more than a dozen officers in between the two groups to prevent violent confrontations.
“I’m very concerned about the rise in facism and racism in this country,” Victoria Ross, Executive Director of the WNY Peace Center said while anti-Trump protestors chanted “racists go home” at the pro-Trump protestors. “I’m also concerned about people inciting other people to violence at the very highest level of our country. I want to make sure people are safe and that includes everybody.”
She called the McMurray-led rally a half-mile away a partisan rally about impeachment and one that she could not attend due to her group’s status as a non-profit.
“We are not going to defeat right-wing extremism if we have these police-approved rallies that are run by the Democratic party and explicitly disallow Antifa and confrontational groups from participating,” she said. “There are people in this country, particularly the most marginalized among us that are affected by the violence that Trump is instigating. We need to stop that violence. We need to close the camps. We need to stop the slide of this country into fascism in any way that we can.”
When asked whether the rally was peaceful, she said there was no “overt violence” and that she would only respond with violence in a case of self-defense.
There was one violent incident that happened at Colonial Circle prior to the official rally that began at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Multiple people on the scene told WBEN, and Buffalo Police confirmed, that one person was sucker punched, though no charges were pressed.
There were no arrests made by the police department on Sunday. The police department did pull multiple people over for various reasons around the protests and one police officer told a protestor who made an inappropriate gesture that he could be charged with harassment, though she let him off with a warning.
“Every time we’ve had a Pro-America rally or just a pro-right rally, we’ve been counter protested by the left,” Pro-Trump organizer Rus Thompson told reporters prior to the start of the protests. “Two years ago we had a pro-America rally in Downtown Buffalo right at Niagara Square. Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and a white supremacist group were there protesting us. That’s fine. If you want to be there, I’ve got no problem with that. But keep it peaceful.”
Thompson said the idea between the two protests is that it would not be confrontational, which is why the Anti-Trump protest was held at Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Avenue.
Nate McMurray and Thompson met along Bidwell Parkway prior to the start of the protests. Thompson said he stressed that it would be a non-violent protest while McMurray responded that those protesters were not affiliated with their group and urged Thompson to send them his way.
“Let’s be peaceful,” Thompson told McMurray. “I just wish the people down there would get the message.”
Tensions were high between the two sides for two hours and protesters progressively left Colonial Circle beginning at 3 p.m. Within an hour, most protesters left.
McMurray’s anti-Trump protest featured singing with chants of “impeach”. That protest ended after about an hour.