AMHERST — President Obama's second visit to Western New York since taking office drew thousands to the University at Buffalo's north campus.
Though not everyone gathered on UB's campus was there to hear the president speak. Some were there to have their own voices heard.
A crowd of about 90 people stood in a designated area a few hundred feet from the entrance of the arena, marked by steel crowd gates, holding signs promoting particular issues such as a ban on the controversial natural gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing, changes in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and Second Amendment rights.
The overwhelming majority of protestors were there to denounce the practice of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — nationwide. Protestors support a continued moratorium on the practice and permanent ban here in New York state and promote the push toward renewable energy sources. The environmental protestors broke into chants and yelled through bull horns as those attending the speech passed by on their way to the doors.
Rita Yelda, the Western New York organizer for the statewide coalition New Yorkers Against Fracking, said with a decision yet to be made on whether the practice will be permanently banned, fracking remains a key issue in the state.
“This is something that threatens our livelihood,” she said. “It threatens our water, our air and our land and you can’t get more basic than that.”
Yelda said that while Obama has made progress in renewable energies he has also allowed fossil fuel interests to continue polluting and profiting at the expense of the public.
“I think what a lot of people have seen coming from President Obama is a lot of hypocrisy in regards to the fact that he has acknowledged climate change and yet is still promoting natural gas development,” she said.