BUFFALO — November 23 — Sunday morning over 50 mostly maskless people gathered outside Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’ house on Delaware Avenue to press for Orange Zone COVID-19 mitigation restrictions on businesses to be lifted.
“Orange Zone restrictions help keep our neighbors safe,” concerned neighbor Kirk Laubenstein said. “Yes, small businesses are feeling the economic hit from these public health measures, however, saving lives is simply more important, including their lives and those of their employees. The appropriate target for their anger is the Republican-controlled Senate, which is holding up critical economic relief for all Americans.”
Neighbor Harper Bishop pointed to a recent study from Kansas that showed the impact of mask wearing: counties without mask mandates had a 100 percent increase in cases, while counties with a mask mandate reduced their incidence of infection by six percent.
“We saw on Friday at Athletes Unleashed and today on Delaware, that the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and Buffalo Police Department are uninterested in enforcing basic health and safety regulations. ECSD were chased out of Athletes Unleashed by a group of over ten unmasked people yelling at them. Sunday, BPD allowed over 50 unmasked people to gather on Delaware Avenue without interference,” concerned neighbor Drew Ludwig said. “In fact, BPD officers held up traffic for this lawless and harassing behavior.”
The state’s Orange Zone designation allows gatherings of up to 10 people indoors or outdoors.
“The group outside Mark’s house was using the American flag and patriotic words like “freedom” to callously demand policies that result in the death of our neighbors,” neighbor Erin Cody said. She pointed to a Centers for Disease Control study showing that nationwide COVID-19 infection rates are much higher among Hispanic, Black and Indigenous residents, far beyond their share of the population. “The COVID zones are as much an economic and racial justice issue as a good neighbor policy.”
“We have noticed that Pete Harding, a Cheektowaga resident, has been actively promoting and participating in these maskless anti-neighbor gatherings,” another neighbor said. Harding has been associated with the New York Watchmen, a chapter of a domestic terrorist organization headquartered in North Carolina. Sunday, about 20 Watchmen guarded the empty gas station at Delaware and Delavan, according to pictures published by WNYmedia Network.
“Stop telling people you’re from Buffalo if you’re not going to act like a Buffalonian,” a cranky neighbor said. “We believe in being good neighbors, whether we shovel each others’ sidewalks or wear our masks, it’s all the same thing.”
Buffalo Concerned Neighbors develops positive relationships between business owners and their neighbors to support public health initiatives to decrease and halt the spread of COVID-19 and the deaths and disabilities associated with it. For more information, visit