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'Black Lives Matter' rally in Buffalo draws large crowd

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jul 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-10 11:12:33-04

Martin Luther King park in Buffalo was crowded with people at a 'Black Lives Matter' rally Friday afternoon.

Speakers were calling for an end to violence between police and civilians and urged the community to come together in the wake of tragedies across the country.

The event was originally organized to remember the lives of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  The two black men were shot and killed by police earlier this week.  Sterling died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday.  Castile died in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on Wednesday.

But after violence broke out at a 'Black Lives Matter' event in Dallas last night, organizers in Buffalo wanted to pay respect to the police officers injured and killed by gunfire.  All victims of gun violence were remembered at the beginning of Friday's rally.

Taniqua Simmons is with Power in Numbers and helped organize the rally.  She wanted to give people a way to express their frustration and create a conversation within the community to better understand the problems facing Buffalo.

"At the end of the day, we all want the same thing," she said.  "We all want to be in our community, we want to be safe and we understand that law enforcement has a job to do."

Simmons and others at the rally believe law enforcement, here in Buffalo and in cities across the United States, needs to respond to the public outcry for change.

"We also need to let law enforcement know that we need change," she said.  "We need real reform, transparency and accountability when these things happen."

Some community leaders think Buffalo is in a better position than some other cities across the country.  Murray Holman is the executive director of Stop the Violence Coalition and is a Buffalo peacemaker.

"Buffalo is unique, and these situations could happen here, but we talk about it a lot in collaboration," he said.  "We sit down and talk with law enforcement."

"Our police force in Buffalo actually does do a good job of interacting with the communities that they serve," Duncan Kirkwood with the Black Lives Matter movement said.  "They actually are more diverse than they were in Baton Rouge or in Minnesota.  So we're already on the road to not having these types of instances."

The rally today is partly an attempt to jump in front of this issue before it hits closer to home.  While attendees at the rally say police in Buffalo do try to have a good relationship with the people living here, they say there is still progress that needs to be made.

"We don't want to leave it to chance," Kirkwood said.  "An event like this can really bring people together."