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Memorial gathering Tuesday in Niagara Square for last week’s shooting victims

There will be no speeches, no proclamations, no rhetoric. People who share heavy hearts are simply invited at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Niagara Square to honor the memories of civilians and police who lost their lives last week in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas.

“To work together for positive change, we need to heal together,” said the Rev. Darius Pridgen, Buffalo Common Council president. “In the face of the catastrophic tragedies, the common denominator for all communities is loss of life. We are holding this memorial as a way to begin that healing process.”

The goal of #WNYHealsTogether, said Pridgen and co-organizer Lana Benatovich of the National Federation for Just Communities, is for people from all walks of life who were stunned, saddened and concerned by last week’s tragedies to meet, talk and – by their presence – show their support for peace and healing.

The hourlong event will culminate with the tolling of bells as the names of those fatally shot are read in alphabetical order as their images are projected.

“There will be no speeches, just speaking,” said Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to speak with someone they don’t know, to meet and share their thoughts.”

The memorial is the outgrowth of an idea suggested by Buffalo News Metro Columnist Donn Esmonde in his Sunday column.

He reached out to Pridgen and Benatovich, renowned community conciliators, to shape and organize the event.

Pridgen said more than 80 groups and entities have been contacted, from community organizations to clergy to city and suburban police departments. Official supporters include the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association and the WNY Area Labor Federation AFL-CIO.

Buffalo PBA President Kevin Kennedy called the memorial “a time to mourn and to remember that the loss of life – every life – is a tragedy.”

Richard Lipsitz of the AFL-CIO echoed Kennedy’s sentiment, calling the event an opportunity “to reflect on the nature of humanity, and strive for understanding and cooperation in solving the problems that are troubling our society.”

Pridgen said it would be “wonderful” if each of those in attendance spoke with a few people who they don’t know. Personal contact, he noted, helps to shatter stereotypes and erode boundaries.

“We have to get past our emotions, have these dialogues and come out of our comfort zones,” said Cambridge Boyd, an elder of True Bethel Baptist Church. “This will start the conversation and healing process.”

Another event, dubbed “Unity Bike Ride,” is being planned through Buffalo Saturday in response to the recent outbreak of gun violence and racial tension across the nation.

Delaware Councilman Joel P. Feroleto and Masten Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Jr. announced the event Monday, saying it will highlight the city’s diversity and unification.

Details of the bike ride were scheduled to be announced later Monday at a press conference in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.