For anyone who attended the Silent Exchange electronic music festival at The Yard on Saturday, I am sorry that you had to witness Buffalo’s Men in Blue in such a sorry state. As fifty young music fans stood around watching a DJ spin on stage, Buffalo Police filed onto private property and threatened the crowd to disband or pay the consequences. Despite the fact that the proper permits had been filed with City Hall, that would allow the music to go on until 10pm, Buffalo Police would not listen to reason, only resorting to ‘police state’ tactics as the young music fans looked on in bewilderment .
One of the reasons that The Yard was chosen for the event was that it is widely known that the bandshell at LaSalle Park is next to impossible to book unless you have an ‘in’ with The City. So that means that the only other alternative when it comes to holding a concert at a permanent outdoor music festival is The Yard. The Yard is not in a residential neighborhood. Nor is it in a commercial neighborhood. It’s located in an abandoned industrial area surrounded by nothing and no one. Maybe sometime in the future this might be inhabited by college students, but that’s just not the case at this point in time. So how do the police claim that there was a noise complaint, especially since the music could not be heard until you turned the corner of the building and actually saw the stage?
Why did the Buffalo Police Force (D-District) decide to shut down a concert with fifty people in attendance? Nobody seems to know. The organizers had all of their permits in place. When filing for these permits, the organizers duly notified the police jurisdiction, so that the authorities were well aware of the event. There was even a rent a cop at the door checking IDs. It was in broad daylight when a slew of police cars showed up to raid the event and shut it down. Young and old people stood watching in amazement as the police officers got out of their cars with Billy Clubs in their hands demanding that everyone vacate the premise. I’ve never seen anything like it, and am still mind boggled as to what happened and why.
It is a true travesty to have experienced such blatant intolerance over the weekend. Especially when all that the promoters were trying to do was to shine a positive spotlight on a part of Buffalo that needs a lot of help. What better way to do that than encourage creative young people and social entrepreneurs to help take part in the city’s renaissance? There was no out of control crowd, or behavior, that should have prompted a cavalcade of no less than eight police cars to show up when they did.
It should also be noted that this was not the first time that they had checked on the premises. Throughout the day the police continued to pay a visit to The Yard feigning any knowledge that a legitimate show was underway. Each time they arrived they were assured that all of the appropriate measures had been followed and nobody was being bothered. The promoter went out of her way to find a location In Black Rock that would not upset or offend anyone. Wouldn’t you think that there would be more pressing issues to be fought by the police rather than breaking up a music festival? If these are the types of pressing matters that the Buffalo Police are combating, then maybe we should be more afraid of their devotion to non-threatening issues, especially when gang violence should be a high priority. Obviously in this case they would rather spend their time harassing the people who are trying to do good things for the city than fight real crime.
The two primary investors in the show, who are based out of Manhattan, throw festivals mostly in cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. Next month, they are even focusing their efforts on the scene in Brazil. Therefore, Buffalo, was a new experience for them, and one that wouldn’t have been on their radar, if not for the tireless work of a local promoter, (who just moved back to Buffalo – welcome back from the Buffalo police force). All three were extremely happy with the Buffalonians who were there to hear the caliber of music that the DJs were spinning.
The cops could not have picked a worse time to start their harassment (is there ever a good time?) And the harassment continued until they got what they came for – locking people inside the gates while locking others out. In talking with the investors, as the police proceeded in closing down the show, they were already writing Buffalo off of their radar, and for good reason in my opinion. Considering how everyone’s time and money was just throw away in a matter of minutes, without so much as an explanation, or being given a name of a higher up on the force who could help to handle the situation in the correct manner.
What a shame for the music community of Buffalo, especially when we usually have to take ourselves, and our money, to Toronto to experience a festival of this kind. The concert was scheduled as a welcome back event for college and university students. It was a bike-friendly event with a cook out and giant games of Scrabble and checkers were being played. Artists were brought in to paint landscape paintings of the buildings. The Buffalo Police saw none of this. Have you ever heard the expression, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
The DJs were flown in from all over the country and most never even got to spin. It’s ironic actually… all morning we thought that the rain was going to wash out the show. Little did we know, that it was going to be the Buffalo Police Department that would rain on our parade. Shame on them and shame on the people who gave them the orders to shut down the Silent Exchange music festival.
*Photos taken by a local business owner who prefers not to be mentioned by name and a nationally recognized journalist who just happened to be at the festival.