BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Eleven days after first occupying part of Niagara Square, Buffalo police arrested 13 people who refused to leave early this morning.
Our 7 Eyewitness News photographer at the scene says police showed up around 1 a.m. Wednesday and told protesters to leave or they would be arrested.
Officers also told our photographer that Niagara Square is a park and they were "not allowed to be there after hours."
Workers with the Department of Public Works cleared everything protesters left behind around 2 a.m.
Police say officers moved in after receiving numerous complaints and reports of people vandalizing property, sleeping overnight, threatening the public, and bathing in the McKinley monument.
"We had complaints of unsanitary conditions," said Captain Jeff Rinaldo. "People started to become threatening, more and more items were being stored in the square."
All 13 people were charged with obstruction of governmental administration, being in a park after 10 p.m. and sleeping in the park. They were issued appearance tickets to return to court at a later date. Police say they also confiscated a sword.
Protesters have been calling for the release of Deyanna Davis, the woman accused of driving her SUV into a wall of law enforcement officers on Bailey Avenue on June 1. Veteran New York State Trooper Ronald Ensminger, Jr. was run over and continues to recover from a crushed pelvis at ECMC. Another state trooper and a Buffalo police officer were also injured. Davis is facing a number of charges. Protesters who say they are part of the group the WNY Liberation Collective are calling to defund the police, protesting against police brutality and racial injustice.
Police say a Chief from B District Police had gone over to the protesters each day and asked them to leave. Police received orders from Commissioner Byron Lockwood Wednesday morning to clear the square.
"It does come a point in time when a demonstration or a protest or a gathering becomes a safety issue," Rinaldo says. "It forces the police to have to address those concerns."
"You have a combination of Black Lives Matter, you have a combination of homelessness and you have anotther combination of of mental illness," said one protester Stevo Johnson. "People are there for all the right reasons, their heart is in the right place."
The Department of Public Works and the Mayor's Impact Team removed garbage, graffiti and camping gear once the square was cleared.