Protest Has People Playing Dead

October 25, 2010 Updated Oct 25, 2010 at 11:35 PM EDT

By Jennifer Stanonis

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October 25, 2010 Updated Oct 25, 2010 at 11:35 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- Dozens of people from the local arts community gathered for a protest in downtown Buffalo in front of the Rath Building late Monday afternoon. Many artists, musicians, and actors spent several minutes lying down on the sidewalks and playing dead. County workers walking from the building after a days work couldn't help but notice the strange site.

Protest organizers say they did this to demonstrate what impact the Erie County Executive Chris Collins' proposed cultural cuts, in this year's budget, would do to the local arts community. "Really good possibility of a lot of folks not being around next year," organizer Joyce Stilson said.

"We have built a theatre district," one protestor said. "Aren't asking for huge amounts of money."

Executive Collins' spokesperson released this statement in reaction to the protest. "Erie County government is the largest financial supporter of arts and cultural organizations in our community. Given the fiscal challenges facing the County this year, the Collins administration made the decision to invest taxpayer dollars in cultural organizations that make a significant impact on our local economy and draw not only local patrons, but visitors from outside our community. As a result, this proposed Budget funds ten local organizations the Collins' administration believes meet the above criteria. The 2011 Proposed Budget allocates nearly $4.5 million for local cultural support. In today's economy, taxpayers cannot be expected to support every local community organization."

In response to this statement, some artists say they would only need about 6% of that $4.5 million to keep 33 of the smaller local cultural groups.