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Poloncarz, Brown weigh in as Hertel Avenue protests continue, MT Pockets closes

Thomas O'Neil-White
Buffalo Police officers surround MT Pockets after patrons confronted Black Lives Matter marchers on Hertel Avenue Tuesday evening. The bar close Wednesday amid an investigation by the Erie County Health Department.

The fallout from two confrontations outside of a Hertel Avenue bar continued Wednesday with the closing of MT Pockets amid an investigation by Erie County Health Department. Local leaders and City of Buffalo residents alike are weighing in on the incidents which put a spotlight on race relations in the city.

Alex David stood outside of MT Pockets Wednesday afternoon. He said he is distraught by the videos he has seen on the news and through social media of the racist behavior displayed by patrons of the bar.

“It made me furious because all we wanted to say is all lives matter,” he said. “I am not a Black supremacist. I don’t think we’re over white people, I love white people to death. But y’all are not going to keep doing this to us. Y’all can’t keep doing this to us.”

At about the same time David was out in front of MT Pockets, it was announced the bar was shutting down temporarily as the Erie County Department of health investigates complaints the bar isn’t following the state’s COVID-19 regulations. MT Pockets released a statement saying it does not condone acts of racism in its bar, is saddened the bar is now associated with the incidents which occurred outside of the establishment, and will comply with all county health and safety regulations.

At Wednesday's COVID-19 update, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said this isn’t the first time the Hertel Avenue bar has been looked at by the Department of Health.

“MT Pockets, itself, was previously cited by the Department of Health on June 30th,” he said. “For failure to have the employees as well as patrons to wear masks during this COVID-19 environment. As such, the recommendation was for closure, until such time that the ownership could prepare a remediation plan to address what were obviously issues back on June 30th.”

Beyond the incidents in front of the bar, Poloncarz said this is a very divisive time in the country, especially with an election around the corner, but the community needs to band together to denounce the racism and bigotry which continues to sprout up in Erie County.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, flanked by Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also weighed in on the topic of race relations and says it is now time to turn action into policy.

“We need to find ways to go beyond protests and get to policy,” he said. “We understand that there is systemic racism and we’ve called that out in this community. We need to continue to call that out, but it’s not just about policing and it’s not just about protesting.”

Brown made it clear that the marches down Hertel were not organized by Buffalo’s Black community. He says now is the time to think on how we, as a community, can help matters related to racial equity instead of hurting them.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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