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Saturday in Niagara Square: what led to the violence between groups?

Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 17:39:41-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — What happened Saturday in Niagara Square?

7 Eyewitness News cameras were only in the park for a portion of the events that unfolded.

We’ve been piecing together some of what transpired but were only able to get half the story.

The Erie County Comptroller declined an interview with us saying, “No thank you.”

Here’s what an Antifa group claims happened on December 19th:

A group organized a memorial for victims of COVID-19 at 11 a.m. They placed trash bags formed to look like body bags on the road and held a demonstration.

A separate event was planned for 2 p.m. to protest Covid regulations and mask-wearing.

We were told some Antifa members decided to stick around as “an act of defiance” to protest their message.

These members shared with 7 Eyewitness News they knew things could get violent or dangerous.

An individual who was there said the group realized at one point it was outnumbered and decided to retreat — just as Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw drove his car into the square to join the demonstration.

This small group then — using their words — began “verbally accosting” the comptroller.

The individual said they were yelling, cursing, and expressing their anger at Mychajliw’s message and how he has been using his elected office in recent months.

We’re then told an individual from the demonstrating group came and became physical with the counter-demonstrators and tear gas and tasers were used.

An individual from the counter group sent photos of a 62-year-old man who they say was beaten and bloodied, in addition to a woman they say was punched in the face and thrown, and told us about a 16-year-old that was allegedly tased.

The comptroller declined our interview to ask him his perspective on how the events unfolded, but he did send us a statement that he also released to the public Saturday evening.

In the statement he said, in part:

About five seconds after arriving at a peaceful rally at Niagara Square and getting out of my

car, a counter-protestor, clad in black, fully disguised, wearing some sort of concealed black motorcycle

helmet, got in my face, and physically accosted me. He made physical contact and approached me in a

threatening manner. I did not remove my firearm from my holster. As a responsible owner and carrier

of a firearm, I felt threatened but not to the point where I felt the need to remove my firearm from its

holster.”

7 Eyewitness News was able to confirm no one on the ground, including police or counter-protesters, knew that Mychajliw had a weapon before he announced it to the public, after the fact.

We also confirmed pistol permits, which Mychajliw claims he has, override the Buffalo City ordinance that prohibits firearms on city-owned property.