Residents of South Buffalo are taking action after learning that a "White Lives Matter" rally has been planned for Cazenovia Park on Saturday.
The 3 p.m. rally, which has been making the rounds on social media, was coordinated by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement based in Detroit. On its website, the party says it is "the political party for every patriotic white American" and that one of its core beliefs is "promotion of white separation."
Two South Buffalo lawmakers, state Senator Tim Kennedy and Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke, are denouncing the gathering. Burke says an independent counter-protest has been organized for members of the community to make their voices heard.
"We're not happy about it. I'm personally not happy about it, but they obviously have the right to assemble under the Constitution. We're not trying to block them from assembling, but I want a loud voice from my community saying that they don't represent our values," Burke told WBFO.
Burke, who lives in and represents the area, did not organize the counter-protest himself. He says the mayor's office and Buffalo Police are aware of the rally and appropriate safety measures will be in place to make sure the situation doesn't get out of hand.
"I'm really encouraging people to protest peacefully [and] respectfully. We really don't want to see this get out of hand," he said.
"The best thing about this country is that you have a freedom of speech. I have no intention of trying to block that for anyone. You don't have to like what people say to accept that they have the right to say it. That being said, I and other people in my community also have a right to express their views and values and let these people know that they don't share the values of people in South Buffalo."
Burke notes a similar situation took place in Cazenovia Park in 1981. He says as the husband of a woman of Puerto Rican descent and the father of mixed-race children, he's not happy the rally is taking place in the same park he frequently visits with his family.
"This is really personal for me. We're at that park all the time. The idea that me and my family or people like us would be made to feel uncomfortable in our our backyards is really personally upsetting to me."