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Democrats’ fundraiser for GOP sheriff candidate turns noisy, as protesters show up

A fundraiser for Republican Erie County Sheriff candidate John Garcia at a Richmond Avenue home in Buffalo turned noisy when protesters against the event turned up.

The protesters were from the activist group Showing Up For Racial Justice, demonstrating outside the home holding the fundraiser for a GOP candidate, under the general roof of Democrats for John Garcia.

Most of those at the event appeared to be police officers, including Undersheriff John Greenan. Garcia is a retired Buffalo detective.

At the center of the dispute is outgoing Sheriff Tim Howard, a Republican who is often blamed by activists for a long roll call of deaths inside the county Holding Center.

Melissa Hubbard from SURJ said the protest was about Democrats supporting a Republican.

"This is a fundraiser called Democrats for John Garcia and we're really concerned about Democrats fundraising in conditions where under Republican leadership there have been more than 31 deaths in the Holding Center," Hubbard said, "and we want to know why Democrats would not want to demand accountability and transparency in the Holding Center, given those conditions."

The Democratic candidate is Kimberly Beaty, a former Buffalo Police deputy commissioner who currently serves as Canisius College's public safety director. Both Beaty and Garcia beat endorsed party nominees in the primary election.

"This does not have anything to do with Kim Beaty," Hubbard said. "We're really here just to raise awareness about the Holding Center and about the fact that under Republican control, the Holding Center has created so much abuse, so much death and there has been no accountability and no transparency and we want change."

What to do about the Holding Center and the Alden jail is likely to be a major issue in the campaign, with a long-term study well underway on merging the two facilities, with the eventual location a key issue.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.