Hundreds of anti-Donald Trump protesters are expected to show up to demonstrate against the Republican candidate at his rally on the eve of the New York primary at First Niagara Center Monday.
Two Facebook groups –Peaceful Protest Against Trump and Never Trump Buffalo Peace Rally – are calling for anyone who wants to peacefully protest to gather in or around Canalside starting at either 4 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.
“We will gather at Canalside at 4 p.m. and gather around the designated areas of First Niagara Center to protest Donald Trump’s message of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia,” the “Peaceful Protest” group posted. “We will stand as one in Buffalo to peacefully protest and show this buffoon that our city will not condone his politics of hate. Thanks for your patience and support, we hope to see you there.”
The “Never Trump” group offered advice to protesters:
• Wear comfortable shoes
• Don’t bring bags, packages or even purses
• Carry ID and a little cash
• Bring bottled water and any prescription medication you need
• Don’t bring anything that could be perceived as a weapon
• If you bring a sign, make sure it’s easy to carry
• Memorize a phone number of someone to call in case your phone is “separated from you or your phone dies.”
The NFTA is providing extra rail service, the same schedule for Sabres games, Monday for anyone trying to get downtown for the event. He also said some roads right next to First Niagara will be closed to traffic and some parking lots are expected to be closed to the public. City officials added there are no plans to bring in portable bathrooms to the area.
Victoria Ross, executive director of the WNY Peace Center, said she doesn’t expect violence in or around the rally but knows with the sheer number of people expected to attend the rally – the arena can hold 18,000 people – and hundreds anticipated to show up to protest against Trump – emotions will be heightened.
“I think it will be peaceful,” she said. “We’ll be doing our level best to make sure.”
Ross helped lead a small nonviolence training workshop Wednesday night at the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church on Masten Avenue in anticipation of large protests at the Trump event.
Sky-blue arm bands were distributed to the people who showed up to wear to identify themselves as peacekeepers.
“We’re going to use that as an organizing tool,” Ross said. “As a reminder and as a strengthening of spirit. So we can find each other.”
She asked anyone who is coming downtown to protest peacefully to wear sky blue to signify “unity, solidarity, peace and justice.”
Buffalo police said Friday morning at a press conference about security, parking and traffic around the Monday rally that peaceful protest would be allowed but did not specify where.
“As those people arrive and as they set up their thing,” Lt. Jeff Rinaldo told reporters Friday, “the police department will make accommodations for them to have an area. At this point I don’t have one designated that I can tell you. Again, working with the police officers that’ll be there that day and our command officers, we’ll make sure everyone that wishes to have, you know, an area to state their claim will.”
A strong police presence is expected in downtown for the rally and several streets right around the arena are slated to be closed. Also many surface parking lots in the area normally open for events at First Niagara are expected to be closed to public parking.
Thursday afternoon, dozens of local law enforcement in tactical gear who are part of the Buffalo police’s emergency response team held a training session at the Perry Housing Development a few blocks away from First Niagara.
Rinaldo said the team trains about once a month and that it’s routine although he said it made sense to do it ahead of Monday’s events.
In addition to the protests anticipated on Monday, the "Peaceful Protest" group is organizing a march at 2 p.m. Sunday starting at Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Avenue.