Nine people were arrested Thursday when a boisterous but peaceful protest against migrant detention centers at the southern border shut down the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street downtown for more than two hours.
"Close the camps," protesters chanted as about 150 people marched in a circle around the intersection. The nine who were arrested were seated in the middle of the street, at times with their arms locked. "Never again is now," the group yelled to protest the detention camps, particularly those where children are being held.
The demonstration came in response to media reports about the camps based on what immigration lawyers began reporting on the children they saw and what has been described as filthy, overcrowded conditions in which they were being held.
The demonstration was held outside the Buffalo office of the Department of Homeland Security at Delaware and Chippewa.
The coalition behind the protest included members of the Buffalo chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Justice for Migrant Families WNY and the New York Immigration Coalition.
Rachel Ablow, one of the protesters who was arrested, said in a statement that she was demonstrating Thursday because "as an American Jew, I am horrified to see history repeating itself and feel compelled to join many others, including Holocaust survivors, in demanding the closure of the camps. We cannot stand by while families are separated, children die alone, and people are dehumanized."
Throughout the protest, Buffalo police used patrol cars to block off traffic in each direction during the demonstration and a couple dozen officers were stationed on the corners.
After about two hours, a couple dozen more officers were brought in. Police demanded over a PA system that protesters stop blocking the road or they'd be arrested. Then a row of officers, some holding batons, surrounded the nine seated demonstrators and arrested them one by one, cuffing them with zip ties behind their backs.
The charges filed included disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and unlawful assembly, said Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo.
After the protest, Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference at City Hall that the protest was "peaceful but also illegal," which is why police made arrests. He noted that organized protests in Buffalo often are planned with police officials, but that did not happen in this case.
"The police response to the protest was appropriate," Brown said of the arrests.
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