Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard attended what is being widely described as a “Klan-style rally” in Niagara Square yesterday, and it’s raising the concerns of African American elected officials and Black Lives Matter activists.
The presence of three oversized Confederate Flags is drawing particular criticism — as Buffalo sits at the northern most extent of Yankeedom. It’s acknowledged that the presence of this flag in Buffalo is entirely about hate and racism. Critics say that the symbolism is intended.
“If the Erie County Sheriff had an ounce of integrity, he would have left when he spotted the KKK or Confederate Flag that was flying boldly near his face,” county legislator Betty Jean Grant wrote on social media. Grant is actively considering a bid for Mayor later this year.
Horace Scott Lacy was prominently in attendance. Lacy admitted to dropping neo-Nazi leaflets in Lewiston last week, reportedly distributing them house to house in groups of four. The Public reports that Lacy is actively recruiting for his group, the Aryan Renaissance Society, in Niagara Falls.
Sheriff Howard is a three term incumbent who is seeking reelection, despite the Erie County Holding Center’s shocking suicide rate — which sits at five times the national average — and following the apparent beating death of India Cummings in February 2016.
Cummings was in the throes of mental illness, clearly incapacitated and incapable of taking care of herself, when she was put into custody at the Erie County Holding Center on February 1st, 2016 after a series of irrational actions. She had originally called the police for help.
Despite frantic efforts by family members and others to have her transferred to a hospital where she could be stabilized, she was stashed away mysteriously in the Holding Center for a two and a half week period. Howard claimed that on February 17, 2016 a “medical event happened,” at which time she was transported to Buffalo General Hospital.
Upon her admission, she had a broken arm, broken ribs, severe dehydration, a blood clot in her leg that would have required the amputation of her leg, and her kidneys were failing. She was brain dead and in cardiac arrest. On February 21, 2016, Ms. Cummings remaining organs crashed, and she died.
Howard has failed to explain what conceivable medical event occurred that could have caused all those conditions simultaneously.
“India was the victim of a homicide. When a clearly incapacitated individual is put into County custody, it is the County’s duty to care for her, as she cannot care for herself. Here, best case scenario, under County supervision, she was allowed to wither away and die in a two and a half week period, having nothing in her system upon her admission to the hospital. That conduct constitutes criminally negligent homicide,” Matt Albert, an attorney for Cummings’ family, explained in an editorial at the time.
“Worst case scenario, she was beaten until there was nothing left and deprived of necessary food and water. That would be intentional or depraved indifference murder. Either way, there is criminal liability here. I hate to point out the elephant in the room, but if this was some white Amherst doctor’s kid who was in such a precarious mental state, he would have been hospitalized,” Albert he wrote.
Following her death, Howard told media that he is “more than satisfied,” as to the care India received.
Howard organized the rally with Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino, which causes Grant to worry about the harmful psychological impacts these pubic displays supporting racist systems of oppression have had on Buffalo Public School students.
“What will Carl Paladino’s students that he represents think when they hear he was a part of this hate-filled rally,” Grant asks.
About 150 people attended the rally, buoyed by free radio air time that promoted the event on WBEN 930 AM. About 50 people assembled an impromptu opposition rally across the street, pictured below. David Bellevia, the station’s leading talk personality, was headlining speaker at the event.