Anti-racist boycott gains strength & support
Placards held aloft outside the Walden Galleria mall here
for motorists to see articulated the demands that are driving
an economic boycott of this sprawling retail and
Stop racist profiling. Stop racist police brutality.
No justice, no peace. Jim Crow must go.
All day long on April 14--the second Saturday in a
row--anti-racist protesters came to spend time bolstering the
boycott. Even with a constant turnover, as many as 80 people
at a time, the majority African American, delivered the
message outside the Walden Galleria mall: Don't shop
The audible response from drivers of all nationalities
blaring their car, taxi, bus and truck horns in support
created a continuous cacophony of welcome noise. Those who
had been on the previous week's picket agreed that the
response from motorists this time was even more
Some who came to shop stopped to join the picket instead.
Some bus drivers opened vehicle doors to shout out
encouragement. Some drivers pulled off on this busy highway
to express their solidarity and get more information about
this anti-apartheid struggle.
One African American driver stopped to hand out buckets of
chicken, big bottles of soda pop, a roll of paper towels and
hand-wipes for clean up--enough for everyone on the picket
Black civil-rights leaders have called for a month-long
April boycott of establishments in this virtually all-white
Buffalo suburb where patrons have experienced racist
Town officials have tried to pooh-pooh the boycott's
effectiveness. But since even disparaging remarks about the
anti-racist struggle help publicize it, such remarks indicate
Mall owners blinked. They have now agreed to meet during
the week of April 23 with the Coalition Against Racial
Injustice, which called the boycott. That will follow a
planned April 18 meeting with town officials and police.
'Justice for Cynthia Wiggins!'
Complaints about management and security targeting Black
shoppers at the mall--the biggest in western New York--have
piled sky high. The coalition is documenting and compiling
No one will forget that here, on the broad, seven-lane
highway the picketers face, Cynthia Wiggins died tragically
and needlessly in December 1995.
Wiggins--a young Black mother--was hit by a truck while
trying to cross Walden Avenue on her way to work at the mall.
The bus she took from a predominantly Black community in
Buffalo was not allowed to stop on mall property.
Lawyers for her estate argued that the reason for barring
the bus from stopping at the mall was to discourage
inner-city residents from shopping there. Mall owner Pyramid
Corp. settled the lawsuit for $2.55 million in November
On April 14 an older man pointed to the sign that read
"Justice for Cynthia Wiggins." He said, "It's that sign there
That man was Mr. Leonard Wiggins--Cynthia Wiggin's
The Rev. Darius Pridgen, one of the leaders of the
Coalition Against Racial Injustice, introduced Leonard
Wiggins as a special guest. The crowd drew close to hear his
Leonard Wiggins explained that he came to show his support
and when he got there, he was so happy to see the sign that
read "Justice for Cynthia Wiggins." He said, "We really have
to keep fighting one day at a time, and one day this will all
Wiggins said that it was because of
the struggle around his daughter's death that buses are now
allowed to stop on mall property.
At that moment, a bus drove out of the mall parking lot.
Many in the crowd pointed to it and shouted: "Look, there it
is. That's the same bus line Cynthia rode the day she was
Rev. Pridgen pointed to the lawn on which everyone stood.
"Look around," he said, "there are still no sidewalks here.
They don't want people walking around here."
The shopping mall is just one business in this suburban
labyrinth of major department stores, supermarkets and
bookstores--all separated by this broad, dangerous highway.
Those without cars have to traverse Walden Avenue on foot,
with only breathless seconds to sprint across the lanes of
dense traffic before the red light changes to green.
Institutionalized racism, rampant and ferocious, is not
confined to mall property, however.
Three women of African descent who took part in today's
protest had lived in Georgia, Texas and Brooklyn, N.Y. All
three now attend the University of Buffalo law school.
They said that they had never experienced as much racist
profiling until they came to Buffalo.
One of them talked about a fellow student using a pay
phone in Cheektowaga. Six police cars screeched up and police
jumped out to interrogate her as a "suspected drug
On this early spring day in Buffalo two placards held up
high for everyone to see eloquently spelled out how to win
this battle: "United we stand, divided we fall. Stand against
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