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Vice president's visit brings protesters, friendly bystanders to events

Vice President Mike Pence spent several hours in suburban Buffalo Tuesday, supporting a local Congressman and taking part in a roundtable discussion inside a local business. He was greeted by dozens of protesters at one event but then welcomed by more friendly bystanders at his second stop.

Pence touched down at Buffalo Niagara International Airport shortly after 11:30 a.m. and was escorted within a lengthy motorcade toward Salvatore's Italian Gardens, which hosted a fundraiser for Congressman Chris Collins. The local Republican was the first in the House of Representatives to endorse President Donald Trump's campaign in early 2016. 

Outside the restaurant, across Transit Road, dozens of protesters from various organizations lined up with signs, flags and chants. 

Diana Patton, who identified herself as a transgendered veteran, took exception with both Collins and Pence for what she described as their indications they only support those who voted for them.

"They don't understand the Constitution is for all of us, not some of us, not all of us except those people," Patton said. 

Freshening their anger is a recently published New Yorker article, suggesting it would be dangerous for America if Pence were to replace Trump. The article cites Pence's position on gay rights, claiming that Trump told an unnamed legal scholar, "Don't ask that guy - he wants to hang them all!"

"It's absolutely sickening," said protester Eileen Giarraffa. "In today's world, everybody in this country deserves the same respect and human rights. Everybody."

Others appeared outside the Collins fundraiser to speak out against the Trump Adminisrtration's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, including his recent Executive Order.

"They keep coming back for it and chipping away little pieces of it," said Rachel Larkin, representing the New York State Nurses Association. "With that executive order, they're just trying to make the law functionally unable to do what it's supposed to do. By doing that, they're trying to get people on that bandwagon that they should just repeal it." 

Following the Collins fundraiser, Pence and his motorcade proceeded to the Village of Lancaster and a roundtable discussion inside Performance Advantage, a company that produces tool and equipment mounting brackets. It was at the roundtable where Pence pitched the Trump Administration's tax reform plan, which includes simplifying the tax code.

"You take a tremendous amount of time off the road, tremendous amount of time out of growing your business, whether that be selling cars or selling coffee, trying to figure out what you owe the government. Well, that’s going to change, because we’re going to have real tax simplification here and nine out of 10 Americans are going to be able to file their taxes on a single sheet of paper," Pence said.

A more friendly group of bystanders welcomed the Pence motorcade as it arrived and departed. Knowing he was in friendlier territory, Pence briefly emerged from a security tent in which his car entered and waved to the crowd gathered across Central Avenue.

Among those standing across the street from the Pence roundtable was Francis Dubrinski, a Trump supporter who told WBFO the best accomplishment by the president so far has been picking Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. He also supports the president's opposition to Obamacare.

"It was an illegal act by the Obama Administration. It was unconstitutional. A federal judge ruled as such," Dubrinski said. 

The next major legislation that Dubrinski hopes will succeed is Trump's tax reform.

If those weren't Trump or Pence supporters lined up outside the vice president's Village of Lancaster event, they weren't expressing opposition. Debbie Hewson said she was simply excited that a person of his importance was appearing in her village. 

"Basically, it's the curiosity factor," she said. "I've never seen any dignitaries so I just wanted to do that."

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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