WKBW: "A renewed push to repeal Buffalo's open container alcohol ban"

Date: December 8, 2020

By Madison Carter | December 8, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — “The arrest disparities are problematic. And arrest disparities have been problematic in Buffalo.”

Tanvier Peart is the Just Recovery Coordinator/Buffalo LEAD Working Group Coordinator at the Partnership for Public Good.

Her organization is one of many who have now written to the Buffalo Common Council in an attempt to have the body repeal Chapter 69 of Buffalo’s Charter which forbids open containers of alcohol outside of homes and establishments licensed to serve.

Other letters of support have come from the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo and another local man who has led the charge as a concerned resident of the City — Aidan Ryan.

“It’s never been a really hot button issue because on paper it doesn’t affect a ton of people and there are frankly other, understandably higher, priorities.”

Ryan first wrote to the common council back in the winter before the pandemic hit, but he says the events over the summer and the City of Buffalo’s push to put in place “common sense” reforms highlight his issues with the ban.

“There were 39 people arrested between 2018-2019 (for violating the law) but 33 of them were Black,” said Ryan.

Peart has also done research on arrest disparities.

“Black folks, for example, accounted for 52% of all the misdemeanor arrests in Buffalo just last year alone even though they make up 32% of the city’s population,” said Peart.

“Black folks in particular continue to face the highest level of arrests for the lowest level charges compared to their white counterparts. And this signals the need for us to pivot away from law enforcement practices that are unfairly applied to neighborhoods of color.” Peart added a lot of the reforms that came from the administration over the summer centers around law enforcement when the community was calling for the opposite.

Ryan said the shutdowns highlighted the selective nature of the enforcement of this law. A law that’s not a ban at the state level, and only was forbidden in cities around the state following the racial unrest of the 60s and 70s.

“Within a week of Erie County shutting down, you had people gathering in their driveways for “quarantinis”, and that really underscored to all of us that this law doesn’t align with anyone’s present day values.”

Ryan said this law only creates another form of engagement between people, predominately Black people, and the police department.

"A totally unnecessary occasion for adversarial relationships between law enforcement and communities.”

The measure to repeal does not have a sponsor in Buffalo’s common council, but a number of council members have acknowledged reviewing research and considering action.

Read and listen to the report on the WKBW website here.