BY JOHN J. HOPKINS
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
A group of protesters were picketing outside city hall Wednesday morning, silently offering their grievances that African-Americans do not get the same opportunities in Lockport as others do.
Huston alleges that city officials "find ways to hold us back" when enterprising members of the black community seek assistance to open a business or purchase a home.
"There are limited opportunities in Lockport," Huston said. "There are no black faces in City Hall. There's nepotism. Why not give everybody the same opportunity?"
Members of the group, which numbered around 10, also allege police harassment, claiming that people often arrive to court to answer a summons only to find that they've been slapped with additional charges, forcing them to strike a plea deal.
Mayor Michael Tucker refutes Huston's statements.
"Everybody gets opportunities in Lockport," Tucker said. "What they do with that opportunity is up to them. Steve likes to throw around invalidated accusations."
Among some of the examples Huston used where African-Americans have been turned down for help include a woman who applied three times for first-time homeowner assistance. According to Huston, the fist time the woman applied, her paperwork was "lost." The second time she filed, the money was reallocated, and her third application was rejected because she earned too much money.
Huston said he and another man's plan to renovate a building on Genesee Street into a restaurant with two upstairs apartments was denied. He added another man wanted to take the old Durf's location on Niagara Street and convert it into a nightclub. That plan was denied because of a lack of parking, said Huston, noting that there was parking available for Durf's.
"Every time we try to start something, they find a way to stop us," Huston said. "We're not getting opportunities."
Huston said he'd like to see the city offer some summer park programs, noting there's nothing for urban youths to do in the summer.
He added that if there's a group of three or more young black people walking together, they get stopped by the police.
Tucker suggested that Huston is using old arguments.
"When you have to go back several years to find an issue, you must not really have anything to complain about," Tucker said. "I'm not going to get into a debate with Steve. No matter what I say, Steve's not going to agree."
Huston said he's not trying to obtain personal gain from the demonstrations. He said he'd like to see the African-American community make in-roads with City Hall.
"This is for our kids and grandkids," said Huston. "The way things are going, they'll have nothing."
Huston said the group plans to demonstrate outside city hall twice a week, adding he expects Wednesday will be a regular picket day.