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Standing up to hate in WNY

Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-14 18:29:44-04

With the recent events in Charlottesville still fresh on the mind of many in WNY, the push for peace continues to march forward and, perhaps in light of recent events, grow stronger.

"We need to be building a movement, as a community. And we're working on that," Vicki Ross, executive director of the Western New York Peace Center, explained.

Ross has seen a surge in activism, particularly from younger WNYers, in the last few months. That energy was on display this weekend as a couple hundred from around the area gathered in the Elmwood Village to call out racism and hate in the wake of Charlottesville.

One of those new activists is 26-year-old Alexis Oltmer. The professional photographer uses her skills with a camera to help document those rallies. It's her way of taking a stand with what she already knows how to do.

"Whether it's within art, writing, photography, painting, what have you," she said. "It's important for [our generation] to show our brothers and sisters and the younger generations that politics is cool."

Oltmer says what happened in Charlottesville was "terrifying" and is all the more reason for people to rally together against violence and hate.

"We all decided that now is the time to stand up," she said. "It's our generation that really needs to take a stand and show people and show older generations that it's okay to have an open discussion with us."

These discussions have happened before in Buffalo. Last July, a neo-nazi group based in Detroit hosted a "White Lives Matter" rally in South Buffalo.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke represents that district and, with hundreds of other WNYers, attended a protest to stand against the group and condemn its ideologies.

"Going there was a scary experience because you didn't know what was going to happen and look at what happened in Virginia," he said. "So it took a decent amount of courage to show up to that thing. I'm proud of my neighbors for showing up the way they did."