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By: Frank Parlato
While there has been a lot of controversy, especially on social media, over whether Friday night’s demonstration at Hyde Park [at 6pm] will be peaceful or not, Mayor Robert Restaino said he will attend the demonstration, along with police.
In addition, according to members Ezra Scott and Danta Myles, about 20 members of the community group, the Niagara Falls Peacemakers, will be in attendance to help monitor any unruly elements in the crowd.
Mayor Restaino told the Reporter:
“Based upon our conversations with the organizer [Mikaila Carr], some other community individuals, and our local law enforcement, we are expecting that this will be the peaceful presentation that the organizer has indicated. However, it’s also prudent for the municipality of Niagara Falls to prepare, because I can’t predict every person’s emotions. I know what these organizers are hoping for. And I know what the city Niagara Falls is expecting, but to the extent that something were to go in another direction, we have preparations in place to address those things should they occur.”
The organizer, Mikaila Carr told the Reporter that she always planned the event to be peaceful and added that her group intends to release helium balloons as a symbol of releasing anger in the community.
In discussing plans for change, Mayor Restaino said he hopes to go beyond demonstrations.
“Rather than just having these public expressions, we want to start getting down to the business of having conversations about real, systemic changes,” he said.
“The whole question of social justice cuts across a number of different areas. It cuts across economic opportunity, employment, housing. There’s a number of areas that are impacted. Clearly, the events in Minnesota with George Floyd became a catalyst for the conversation, but there is a broader spectrum. There’s a number of things that I think all societies, all cities, all communities, all states, really should be looking at. It is this broader issue of social justice. Our approach is to have honest and direct engagement and engagement has to be from both sides. Government needs to do these things because it sees them as necessary and not because they’re ordered to do them.”
During the past week, there have been dire warnings, replete with rumors about the rally. One even claimed that out of town agitators came in on buses and were staying at the DoubleTree hotel and were planning to make the rally turn violent.
The Reporter went to the hotel but could find no immediate evidence of buses of outsiders. Additionally, the hotel denied any such group of people staying at the hotel when reached for comment.
Two members of the city’s Human Rights Commission warned the public to stay away from the demonstration because of concerns about violence citing intelligence from law enforcement as the basis for their statement. According to multiple Administration officials, this statement was not approved by the City Council, or the Mayor’s Office, which any statement from the Human Rights Commission must be as a board created by the Council, and does not reflect the views of City Hall.
Mayor Restaino and Police Chief Licata appeared in a live video released on social media Thursday, June 4th, 2020, stating that all rumors swirling on social media were not true. In pertinent part, Chief Licata stated, “we know that there is a lot of stuff circulating on social media. None of that has been substantiated at this point.”
The crowds will gather at Hyde Park and then walk down Pine Avenue to the police station on Main Street. Numerous business on Pine Ave. have boarded their buildings.
Mayor Restaino speaking of those warning people to stay away, said, “People are entitled to their own opinions. But at this stage, we are anticipating a peaceful protest presentation.”
The mayor also said he was attending but simply “as a person who wants to engage in this social justice conversation.”
He added, “Certainly the organizers have their own plan in place. If asked, I’m happy to speak, but I’m not planning any prepared remarks.”
Insofar as the event commences at 6:00 pm and the sun does not set for some hours later, this rally has the advantage of being conducted in daylight which also militates against the kind of violence seen in other cities where the protesters turned to looting and violence under the cover of night.
The Niagara Falls Reporter will be on the scene live streaming the entire event.