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Protests continue outside Dunkirk City Hall

On Tuesday, while Dunkirk City Council met in a closed meeting which was broadcast on television and streamed on line, outside were chants by local residents calling on the council to “stop being so mean spirited” and “stop being racist.”

Leading the chants was Kathy Campola, a Fredonia resident who owns multiple rental properties in the city and whose husband was fired by the city council earlier this year.

“With this new council, it’s very obvious they hate Puerto Ricans. They talk trash all the time,” Campola explained in a telephone interview afterward. “It’s uncalled for.”

Mayor Wilfred Rosas, who is not only Dunkirk’s first Hispanic mayor but also the first Hispanic mayor of any city in New York state, sat quietly during Tuesday’s council meeting, answering only a couple of questions when they were brought to his attention. Unlike the June meeting that was held on Zoom, Rosas did not clash with Councilman-at-Large Paul VanDenVouver, or any other elected city official.

During the meeting the sounds of the protesters could be heard, but what they said was not easily identified. “Hispanics are people too,” “move the city forward,” and “stop being a bully” were some of the other chants made by the dozen or so residents. Campola was holding a bullhorn leading the chants.

The only time VanDenVouver acknowledged the protesters is when he alleged that Campola had violated the city code when she brought household trash from Fredonia to be picked up in Dunkirk. “She’s out there with a bullhorn tonight talking crap while she’s breaking the law,” he said during the meeting.

During the phone interview with Campola, she did acknowledge she brought a bag of personal trash to one of her Dunkirk properties, but said she didn’t realize that was not permitted. “I never heard of that before tonight. It’s not like I’ve been knowingly violating the law,” she said.

Campola, who owns 10 properties in the city, called VanDenVouver “a puppet” and called First Ward Councilman Don Williams Jr. “the puppeteer.”

Williams was one of the individuals who supported terminating David Campola from the city when he was the human resources director. “My husband is very reputable man. He brought so much to the table. He’s missed by so many,” she said. “They fired him before they had a chance.”

When asked why she believed her husband was fired she responded “it’s personal,” declining to comment further.

This is the second time in a row a group has protested outside city hall during a council meeting.

John Ramos, a Hispanic man who was born in Dunkirk and lived in the local area all his life except during his tenure in the military, did not participate in the first protest but was there Tuesday. “This is a huge Hispanic community and you don’t see representation in the county, the town or the city,” he said.

Ramos shakes his head at the relationship between Mayor Rosas and the city council. “He’s doing an outstanding job and he hasn’t raised taxes in five years. Look at all the state money he’s brought in. He’s done an impressive job. That’s what so disturbing. If he was a non-productive mayor, I’d understand. We’ve had plenty of those,” he said.

Beyond city hall, Ramos wants to see more Puerto Ricans working for the Dunkirk City School District, especially teachers. “We have 0.01 % of minority teachers in Dunkirk,” he said.

Campola said no one from the city council approached her about her concerns raised over the last two weeks. She hasn’t decided if she will continue to protest during future city council meetings.

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