Political activity ratcheted up across Buffalo on Sunday’s sunny spring day, two days before Tuesday’s presidential primary election in New York State.
Supporters of the five remaining candidates were out canvassing neighborhoods, working telephone banks and making the case for why their candidate deserves New York’s delegates and a term in the White House.
While supporters of Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump were anticipating a rally of thousands Monday night in Buffalo’s First Niagara Center, an anti-Trump march drew about 80 people Sunday to the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway.
Many of the protesters carried homemade signs accusing Trump of hateful rhetoric and divisive policies on major issues.
“To him and to any other candidate who wants to do any hatemongering, fearmongering and warmongering, we are not up for that,” said Vicki Ross, executive director of the WNY Peace Center. “That’s not what makes us better.”
The line of protesters chanting “This is what democracy looks like” departed with a Buffalo police escort south on Elmwood to Allen Street, over to Delaware Avenue and up to West Utica Street before returning to their starting point.
Becky Ambury, a registered nurse from Waverly, carried a sign reading “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall” – a reference to Trump’s plan to have a wall built along the border with Mexico.
“I think that Trump would be disastrous for our country,” she said before marching with her daughter, Lauren, a SUNY Buffalo State student.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the march even after Trump’s rally was rescheduled from Sunday to Monday. But turnout was lower than the several hundred people – or even 1,000 – organizers had hoped for. Ross said she thinks many people are waiting for Monday night, when several gatherings outside the arena that organizers say will be peaceful are scheduled.
“I think what we’re trying to do is give them the opportunity that they might not have had before to see people who are different from them,” Michael Venturiello, a University at Buffalo student, said of the interactions he expects between Trump supporters and opponents. “Hopefully they’ll love and accept who we are because we’re coming as a peaceful protest.”
Tom Carlucci, a teacher from Cheektowaga, said he became politically engaged only after Trump became the GOP frontrunner.
“Mr. Trump, if he’s done anything, he’s brought out the anti-Trump also,” Carlucci said. “I watch all the time and I still don’t know what his policies are, other than building walls and hating people.”
Elsewhere Sunday afternoon, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, a Buffalo native often mentioned as a potential running mate of Hillary Clinton, made several stops for her in Buffalo including a “Get out the vote” event, a thank you to volunteers at Democratic Party headquarters and a meeting with local labor leaders supporting Clinton.
And several supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from Buffalo’s black community came together in Martin Luther King Park. Representatives from the Young Black Democrats of WNY, Universal Negro Improvement Association, Citizen Action of New York, and other organizations, joined in front of the park’s bust of the civil rights leader in support of Sanders’ stances on economic and social justice issues.