Protesters bring school board meeting to stop

Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 18:41:36-05

On Wednesday night, a group of several dozen protesters interrupted a Buffalo Public Schools School Board meeting, making it impossible for board members to continue working in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.  The meeting needed to be moved to a separate room for the board to finish its scheduled business.

Protesters were calling on the state to remove Carl Paladino from his position on the board in response to controversial comments the board member made to Artvoice in December, as well as other comments he's made in recent years.

The protesters chanted "Buffalo Schools cannot move forward when bigotry is on the board" and also called out board members Patricia Pierce and Larry Quinn.

"What side are you on Patti? What side are you on Larry?" they sang at the two members.

Pierce said the public wouldn't be upset with her or Quinn if they knew why they aren't asking for Paladino to step down.  They have both publicly condemned the comments, but Pierce says removing Paladino for his words would violate his right to free speech.

The board's petition to New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia cites a breach of executive session as grounds to remove Paladino.  Pierce voted against sending that petition because she doesn't think that is enough to remove Paladino from an elected position.

"If the public knew where we stood on that issue they would not be so quick to condemn us and to call us racists and bigots," she said.

Whitney Crispell helped organize the protest and she says the message they are sending is the board won't get back to "business as usual" until Paladino is no longer there.

"There will be no peace as long as he's on the school board," Crispell said.  "He has no business being there.  Our community completely rejects his presence."

The protest seemed to have the desired effect.

Board President Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold said it did "impede the board's ability to do business".  She said they would be discussing how to respond if these protests continue.