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9 arrested at two protests against Erie County Sheriff

Nine people were arrested at two protests Wednesday against Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard's management of the county's jails and his appearance at a pro-Trump rally.

The protests were organized by the group Showing Up for Racial Justice in Buffalo.

The first protest was held inside the Sheriff's Office building on Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo. A second event was outside the Erie County Holding Center, located next door.

In the first protest, sheriff's officials said the protesters were allowed into the lobby of the Sheriff's Office.

"The group began chanting multiple slogans at the same time interrupting government business," a statement from the Sheriff's Office said. "The group was asked to leave multiple times, and four individuals refused to leave the premises. The four individuals locked arms and sat on the floor chanting 'Black Lives Matter.' The four individuals were ultimately arrested and charged with trespassing. The defendants were issued appearance tickets and released."

Five people sat down in front of the doors of the Holding Center in the second protest, blocking entry into the building. They were arrested and were being processed Wednesday. It wasn't immediately clear what charges they would face.

The group held a third rally at 5 p.m. Wednesday outside the Erie County Holding Center, which included about 70 people.

One of them, Bob Lavallee of Amherst, said he is "concerned about mass incarceration and racism in America, in general," and called Howard "the face of that incarceration here in Erie County."

"Twenty-six folks have died in his jail under his watch," Lavallee said.

"He's resisted efforts to have transparency and reform and he's complicit with white supremacists and racists, and that will not stand," Lavallee said, referring to Howard's participation in the April 1 rally in Niagara Square.

The protest group issued a statement saying that "they are motivated by what they see as Howard’s lack of accountability for the deaths and poor conditions at the Erie County Holding Center and the Alden Correctional Facility" as well as his appearance at the pro-Trump rally.

Corrections panel orders Howard to report inmate suicide attempts

Ethics panel sees no problem with Howard wearing uniform to pro-Trump rally

Howard underwent criticism for appearing in his uniform at the rally last month, sponsored by the Tea Party and the Shooters Committee on Political Education, which resists gun control measures.

Earlier this month, the Erie County Ethics Panel ruled Howard did not violate the county's Code of Ethics in wearing the uniform to the event.

Sheriff Tim Howard speaks at the Spirit of America rally at Niagara Square, in Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday April 1, 2017. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The state's Commission of Correction in May formally faulted Erie County jail officials for failing to report serious incidents – suicide attempts, inmate violence and the "erroneous release" of a defendant – and said it expected improvement.

Howard, 67, is expected to seek re-election this fall.

The Republican was appointed sheriff in 2005, won election to a full term later in 2005, and was re-elected in 2009 and 2013. Former FBI Special Agent Bernard A. Tolbert has announced he plans to run against Howard on the Democratic Party line.

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