BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — It has only been nine days since Erie County brought back the mask mandate in stores, bars and restaurants, but some have had enough already.

“We do not co-parent with the government,” said Nancie Orticelli, a member of the Constitutional Coalition, a group of parents and business owners fed up with the fact that a mask mandate is back for stores, bars and restaurants in Erie County. They plan to march from Buffalo City Hall to the Rath Building at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, urge students to walk out of class in protest on Thursday and anyone else who opposes the mask mandate to violate it on Friday.

“I cannot wait for the kids to experience the same power that Rosa Parks experienced when she stood up when she said ‘No’. That civil disobedience was embraced and our kids will experience the same empowerment when they say no,” said Robby Dinero, owner of Athletes Unleashed, a gym in Orchard Park which successfully fought fines levied against it.

Erie County officials have stressed for months that the mask mandate is meant to protect everyone especially the most vulnerable and that if even ten percent of the population wears it can still slow the spread.

Dinero is tired of there seems to be no end in sight. “It was gonna be two weeks. We’re now going on two years, right? It was ‘Oh just wear the mask, just get the vaccine then you don’t have to wear the mask. Oh let’s do some lockdown procedures, oh we may have to shut the entire county down again.’ That’s what I say to anybody who says it’s just a mask.”

“Really, we’re killing our kid’s immunity,” said Jina Gentry, a public school teacher and a mother of four. “We’re killing our kid’s ability to interact with others in multiple different ways and they’re not gonna be beneficial members of society because their education has suffered over the last two years.”

In response, the County Executive’s Office released a statement saying in part;
We’ve all seen what’s happened in other communities with violence and “protests” at school board and town board meetings, something we’ve closely watched. These groups have been travelling the country performing dangerous and community-dividing political stunts and now they’re coming here. Erie County deserves better than this.

George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.

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