While the attendance at Wednesday's rally in Niagara Square was a fraction of a more boisterous event held in April, those in attendance renewed their disapproval of Governor Andrew Cuomo's handling of the COVID pandemic and what they say has been his continuing overreaching restrictions.
Numerous cars and trucks continued in a loop through the roundabout roadway within Niagara Square while a few dozen individuals stood within the square. They carried various flags and signs, most of the latter bearing phrases of opposition to Governor Cuomo.
Nancy Orticelli, president of the Constitutional Coalition of New York State, was among those in attendance. She recalled state legislators giving Cuomo expanded executive powers at the onset of the pandemic but told WBFO the time has come to pull those powers back.
"We have flattened the curve so much, there isn't even a curve," she said. "There wasn't even a curve to begin with in New York State. We did not overwhelm our hospitals. We did not overwhelm our healthcare workers. We did what we were asked to do. And now it's time to move on. But he incrementally keeps stripping our rights away."
For many in attendance, displeasure with the governor predates the pandemic. Orticelli referred to the SAFE Act, the gun control legislation signed into law by Cuomo in January 2013. Nancy Vail, who identified herself as Pro-Life, spoke of Cuomo's policies toward abortion. She's now frustrated by the governor's continued limitations on capacity in churches.
She finds allowing only 25 percent capacity in places of worship to be unacceptable.
"I feel like they should just open the churches completely now," she said. "You can fly an airplane, but you can't go to church. People are scared to come to church. This is a time that people need to come together, and they're being stopped from doing so."
Back in April, at least 150 vehicles participated in a similar protest, filled with people demanding Cuomo lift the "PAUSE" order that had been in effect for about a month. Longtime political activist Rus Thompson acknowledged the lower turnout and also the absence of any elected officials who attended previous rallies. He was disappointed but not necessarily surprised.
"People are frustrated. They've lost hope," he said. "People have lost hope. Because nobody, none of their representatives, have tried to help them out, to get back to work, to be able to go visit... I haven't seen my grandkids in almost two months, again. Everybody's afraid. We're living in a state of fear. And that's terrible."
Thompson, who says he recognizes his own health issues, insists "people aren't stupid," and know how to keep their businesses and interests as safe as possible as the pandemic continues.
Now there are concerns for a second wave of COVID-19 infections. WBFO asked attendees about their thoughts.
"I think it's all political. I think once the election is done, this will all be gone," Vail said.
And about the election? Thompson says where there's a feeling of lost hope about Cuomo and New York State, there's great enthusiasm for next month's presidential election.
"Oh my God, yeah, like I've never seen before," he replied. "People don't want to mail in voting. They want to go to the polls and vote. That's where the people want to vote. I'm 64 years old. I'll be 65 in February. I've been politically active in Western New York for 25 years. I have never seen the frustration. And the people just say it, 'when it's Election Day, I want to vote and we've got to change things.' And we have to, but we're stuck with Cuomo for two more years. Two more years. Are we gonna be like this? For years? If Cuomo has his way, probably."