The biggest logistical problem at Buffalo’s sister march, “No Hate, No Mandate”: finding downtown parking garages not owned by our own “mini-Trump,” Carl Paladino. Paladino, former Republican nominee for governor of New York, recently published a vile misogynist and racist tirade against Michelle and Barack Obama. In the lead up to the women’s march, activists have staged numerous rallies to get him off the school board and call out his abhorrent speech. And then there is local representative Chris Collins, the first Congressional lawmaker to endorse Trump and a key member of his transition team, who recently called civil rights activist John Lewis a “spoiled child.” So for Buffalonians, combatting hate is personal and local.
Luckily Buffalo has also experienced a resurgence of political activism in recent years. This has ranged from Black Lives Matter to umbrella groups like the Partnership for the Public Good, the Western New York Peace Center, and People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), activists which have done invaluable work coordinating projects and communicating across the city and suburbs. And, as any reader of Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis’s classic Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community knows, Buffalo has a long history of a politicized and diverse LBGTQ community. Thanks in part to the visibility of the Standing Rock movement, members of the Seneca Nation also played prominent roles in the march and protest Saturday. Finally, although we didn’t have Alicia Keys or Madonna, the entertainment reflected Buffalo’s diversity: Mexican marimba players and African American drummers.
Our march began at the “solidarity hub” in Babeville, a renovated nineteenth church that musician Ani DiFranco has transformed into a performance space. There was a line of crock pots filled with soups, stews and chili all made by Buffalo women and free to the crowd (I had the best carrot soup ever.) There was a table to write letters and sign petitions, and representatives from various groups recruited for their causes. The groups included the University at Buffalo sanctuary campus movement where I saw a number of faculty friends: I had no idea they were doing this organizing. And there was a cash bar where you could grab a local brew before heading back outside. It soon became too crowded inside as people began to pour into Delaware Avenue, the first indication that the march would reach at least 4,000 people. As in reports elsewhere there was an abundant supply of goodwill, including by the local police who blocked off Niagara Square when it became apparent there were too many marchers to make it safe.
In sum, this felt different than the many other marches I’ve engaged in, from the nuclear freeze marches in the late 1970s to the anti-war marches of the Bush era. It felt local, it felt personal, and it felt generative. Buffalo is ready not only to take on Trump, but Paladino and Collins as well. Bring it on.