BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Demonstrators temporarily halted Buffalo Public Schools' Wednesday board meeting, calling for Carl Paladino to be ousted from his seat, with protesters chanting and filling City Hall with song.
It started out of the blue: “Which side are you on, Larry, which side are you on? Which side are you on, Patty? Which side are you on?” referring to at-large members Larry Quinn and Patricia Pierce.
One voice turned to many, and just like that, the meeting was stopped in its tracks. Protesters were organized by Just Resisting, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Queers for Racial Justice.
"He has promoted extremely violent, racist, sexist, queerphobic and transphobic rhetoric throughout his decision on the board, and he is completely unfit to make decisions for thousands of Buffalo school students," said Jayden Mcclam, with Just Resisting.
"Twenty or so spoiled kids have a right to exercise free speech, and that's all right, except that you saw how disruptive it was to the meeting," Paladino said after the meeting.
Organizers estimated turnout at 75. The meeting briefly stopped, then moved to a smaller room. Protesters followed, but weren't allowed in.
In December, newsweekly ArtVoice asked noteworthy Western New Yorkers, including Paladino, what they would like to see happen in 2017. Paladino's answers to the wishlist included Barack Obama catching mad cow disease and Michelle Obama "[returning] to being a male and [letting] loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla." Saying "I certainly am not a racist," Paladino says he wrote those answers as a joke and never meant to send them to the paper; instead, he was going to email them to friends.
It was those comments that led to petitions for Paladino's removal being filed with the state education department.
"I condemned what Carl said, probably stronger than anyone on the board. But I don't think it's appropriate for us to be kicking him off the board for that executive session issue, anyway," said Quinn.
"I'm not backing Carl. The decision is going to be made by, Commissioner Elia. The decision is not made by me or any other board members," Pierce said.
Protesters vowed to show up at March's meeting if their demands aren't met.
Paladino, Pierce, and Quinn all say that's their First Amendment right.