BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thursday night’s protestors were a combination of civil rights activists and family and friends of Wardel “Meech” Davis, and their message was that they don’t trust police.
They feel what happened to Davis was preventable and that the young man was targeted for the wrong reasons.
Davis died after experiencing medical stress in police custody late Tuesday night. Buffalo Police have released very little about the incident, other than to say officers tried to apprehend Davis for “suspicious activity,” a fight ensued, and the officers started CPR when they realized Davis was having a medical issue. Both officers are on administrative leave.
Protestors surrounded the B-district building in downtown Buffalo. About 75 people chanted with signs that they feel local officers abuse their power.
Cariole Horne, a former buffalo police officer fired after she tried to stop her partner from hurting a handcuffed victim, says officers get only one week of hand on hand combat training, and she feels that’s not enough.
“Officers don't know how to handle these situations correctly, and that's why we have people who are dying at the hands of police officers,” Horne said.
Legal counsel for the Police Benevolent Association said both officers had clean records until this incident.
"I don't care how clean your record is,” Horne said. “If you kill someone you need to be held accountable.”
A man claiming to be Davis’ brother also attended the protest to make clear that he will never get to see Davis again.
“We were supposed to chill the same night...I ended up falling asleep and I woke up to a call that my brother's dead,” said Dakota Sanchez.
Sanchez says his brother was just walking home.
"How was he suspicious? Every black man in the neighborhood is suspicious to the cops. This isn't the first time they harassed a man,” he said.
The Buffalo AntiRacism Coalition helped organize Thursday’s protest, and many people are attributing this incident to race. Davis was a 20-year-old black male. However, the PBA said that one of the two officers is also black.
“It doesn't make a difference at all. He's in one of the biggest gangs amongst all the gangs in the world and that's the police. And they think that because they have a badge they can do anything they want,” Sanchez said.
Then, protestors took their message to the streets. The group remained peaceful but did block traffic in the theatre district for about an hour to make sure their message was heard.
Davis's girlfriend said police questioned her but lacked transparency about the incident.
The State Attorney General's Office has taken over this case and will be prosecuting it. According to Buffalo Police, the AG’s office also told the police department to direct all further questions toward the state.