In the Middle of Negotiating New Agreement, City Raids Occupy Buffalo
“Now there’s pollution where there once was something beautiful.” – @BootsofSolidarity, Buffalo occupier
The city had police move on Occupy Buffalo early in the morning after it decided not to renew the occupation’s permit for Niagara Square. At least ten were arrested and tents and personal property were bulldozed. Occupiers had been offered an agreement which they turned down. After midnight, they were in Niagara Square without a permit but the city could have continued to negotiate with Occupy Buffalo and chose to carry out an eviction instead.
The action began to unfold around 1:30 am ET. Police surrounded the square.
A broadcast from @BootsofSolidarity on UStream shows a Buffalo police chief asking who was in the “leadership” at Occupy Buffalo.” The occupiers said, “We have a lot of shared leadership.”
“I need a leader. Or someone you want as a leader that you’ll take direction from,” the chief replied.
A peacekeeper stepped up to be the “leader.” The chief walked over to talk to the peacekeeper in private. The streamer followed him into the street that surrounds the Square. He asked the peacekeeper to have the streamer back away.
The peacekeeper for Occupy Buffalo came back to the sidewalk of the Square with a “mic check.”
“For the people who want to be sure not to get arrested they should move over on to Court St,” the peacekeeper stated. “People who are willing or prepared to get arrested should congregate right here.” She added, “The tents and the other things are all going to be collected up by the officers. Then they will be available tomorrow.”
Occupiers then expressed interest in going in to remove their personal property and wanted to know if that was possible. An officer said, “I think we can certainly accommodate you who want to remove your personal belongings.” But, the officers would need to inspect each of the tents to be sure there was nothing or no person that would threaten the safety of police.
Naturally, Occupy Buffalo, which had a reputation for being peaceful took issue with this. An officer reacted, “You guys have been wonderful.” He went to find out how to move on from here.
“Boots” took the stream into the Square and noticed there were twenty riot cops waiting off to the side with some kind of a “tank.” He returned to the sidewalk shortly after. Occupier that were willing to commit civil disobedience and get arrested were put in zip cuffs. Squad cars were brought around to take them away.
An officer then approached “Boots,” who was trying to film the eviction. He was told to go across the street if he didn’t want to get arrested. He informed the Buffalo officer that he was “legally observing” but he said he didn’t want any confusion. He said he wasn’t breaking the law. He said he wasn’t interfering with any investigation.
Bulldozers and dump trucks were brought in to remove property from Occupy Buffalo. The occupiers were promised they would get what was seized back tomorrow and it would not be destroyed but how much care would those out working at 3 am take when handling their property? Less than an hour later bulldozers were in the square clearing out the tents.
Curt on the Occupy Buffalo media working group told “Boots,” “We possibly could have stayed five more weeks but putting a date on saying when we were going to leave was a real tough thing for some of the group to swallow. We could not reached consensus on this agreement and we told them we could not reach consensus by midnight and that’s why this happened.”
Occupy Buffalo had an agreement with the city. They let Buffalo stay here. They signed an agreement and were allowed to get their message out for months. They could have remained in the Square until sometime in March if they agreed to leave the Square by a set date.
A geodesic dome and teepee that were both donated to the occupation were left standing because it was believed they could be left standing. The occupiers have until 3 pm this afternoon to remove the dome and teepee from the Square.
Here are some amazing photos of the eviction and here’s video of the eviction:
About a week ago, I stayed at Occupy Buffalo for two non-consecutive nights, while I was visiting Occupy sites in the region and met occupiers to get their story. In the third poorest city in the nation, it was my impression that Occupy Buffalo was giving many Buffalo residents hope that there could be change in the city. One of the occupiers, Sam, had been going to colleges and had invitations to speak to church groups. She had a real vision for the impact Occupy Buffalo could have on the city.
Sam drove me around and showed me Buffalo. She took me down Main Street and into the neighborhoods, where poor people of color live. She talked to me about how there are very few shops in this poor part of Buffalo and how many of the properties are churches so they do not have to pay taxes.
I rode with her for seven blocks as she showed me how the city quickly transforms into a white upper class neighborhood. The homes are all two-stories. As we kept going, there is development. All the chain restaurants and stores are all concentrated here. This was a blatant example of how parts of America are still segregated.
The transit authority in Buffalo had plans to cut many of the bus routes that poor people depend on to get around the city and to work (at least eighty percent of the routes). What would people do that needed to get out here? Walk? This was Occupy Buffalo’s new cause and focus. They were going to save public transportation and were boarding buses during the daytime to inform Buffalo residents, who had no idea their city government was planning to make cuts, that this was going to happen.
The occupiers I spoke to seemed to think they had built rapport with the city. They had been occupying for over one hundred days. The group had saboteurs who were sending emails to the city urging them to evict the occupation from Niagara Square. In a meeting, at least a few officials wondered about these emails and what they should do with them. They wondered if they could mark them “spam” because what was being described seemed lunatic. They understood the occupation was cooperating and was handling their presence in Niagara Square appropriately.
Occupiers were convinced that day that their agreement with the city would be renewed. They did not expect the city to make an offer with a deadline for leaving the Square.
Letting the government know when you will leave is not in line with values and principles of the Occupy movement. That is why the occupation did not come to consensus. It is not because they are ungrateful to the city or unreasonable people.
Now, I must critique at least one local news outlet in Buffalo: John Washington is not the leader of Occupy Buffalo. He was arrested and is well-spoken. He could inspire all the children and teenagers in all the schools of Buffalo to get out in the streets and fight any issue, but he is not the leader because there are no leaders. The movement is “leaderful.” Everyone is a leader.
And, for context, Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo had recently accepted $1 billion from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. Cuomo was in New York on the second day I spent at Occupy Buffalo. Earlier in the day, Occupy Buffalo held a protest confronting Cuomo.
The investment of $1 billion is not necessarily suspicious, but one might want to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out if Brown had to agree to do anything if he accepted the money. Like, was he urged to begin to force Occupy Buffalo out of the Square? Cuomo did everything he could to go after Occupy Albany.
Occupy Albany stood up to Cuomo and had some support from the Albany police chief and District Attorney David Soares. But, that wasn’t enough to prevent the pressure from getting to the city finally.
Other occupations were cracked down on in the coming months. Weeks before Occupy Buffalo, Occupy Syracuse was run out. Mayor Stephanie Miner tried to remove them for violating fire codes but after an inspection hours before eviction they were found to be in compliance. She still went ahead and evicted them from Perseverance Park. Was this move encouraged by Cuomo?
Cuomo has been targeted well by the Occupy movement and it is situations like these when one suspects there is back room political dealings going on that led to the moment.