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Outside Trump transition lunch, protesters decry policies, Paladino

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

As invited guests dined inside a downtown Buffalo hotel, listening to remarks by the woman who led Donald Trump's successful presidential run, protesters stood outside, speaking against the President-Elect's policies. They also renewed their displeasure about a Buffalo School Board member who was one of Trump's top local campaign advocates.

Kellyanne Conway was the scheduled keynote speaker at a fundraiser for the Trump Transition Team, hosted inside the Westin Hotel at the corner Delaware and Chippewa. Guests who attended paid five thousand dollars per plate.

The event was closed to the media. 

Outside the hotel, about two dozen protesters spoke out against Trump policies. Samantha Nephew spoke of her concern for public education, in light of Trump's choice to lead that department.

"Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has allowed for a person to come in as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is for privatization and for school vouchers," she said. "This is going to be incredibly detrimental to children of color, to poor children, to the most vulnerable families and children in our country."

As guests arrived, one by one, some protesters shouted catcalls. They mocked the expensive models of vehicles in which the guests rode, the attire guests were wearing and their willingness to spend $5,000 per plate for the function inside. 

Across the street, on the building standing diagonally from the lunch venue, activists unfurled a large banner which read "We Will Eat The Rich." Cai Blue, with the group Just Resisting, explained they were dismayed that many local leaders were willing to shell out big bucks for Conway's local appearance.

"We're calling out the fact that the rich are paying five thousand a plate to fund Trump and his transition, when he clearly said that he would do it on his own," Blue said. "These people are literally funding oppression and funding fascism."

Credit Chris Caya, WBFO
Protesters line up on both sides of the entrance to valet parking at the Westin Hotel, where guests spent $5,000 per plate to attend a fundraiser for President-Elect Trump's transition team. Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was the guest speaker.

Protesters also took aim at Carl Paladino, whose published remarks about President and First Lady Obama have led many to call for his removal from his school board seat.

Speakers urged newly-installed State Senator Chris Jacobs to publicly reject Trump's "anti-worker agenda" as well as Paladino's remarks, published December 23 in Artvoice.

"Senator Jacobs, it's time," said the Reverend Justo Gonzalez. "Are you going to stand on the side of your constituents? Or are you going to stand on the side of the rhetoric of hate?" 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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