Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — President Obama’s second visit to Western New York since taking office drew thousands to the University at Buffalo’s north campus.
Obama spoke to more than 7,000 people in Alumni Arena, his first stop on a four-city, two-day tour to promote a new higher education initiative aimed at driving down the cost of secondary schooling.
The line to get into the arena stretched around the road that loops through campus, so far that the arena could not be seen behind the last person in line at 10:20 a.m., just under an hour before Obama was scheduled to speak.
A pair of Niagara University students were in that line moving slowly toward the arena in anticipation of the president’s remarks.
Andrea Nicolia, a senior education major, said she was excited to hear the president speak about a an issue that so directly applies to her situation as a college student.
“It’s a big deal to us at this time,” she said.
Matt Nadler, a senior political science major and an academic senate representative in the Niagara University Student Government Association, said he jumped at the opportunity to hear Obama speak as soon as he was offered a ticket.
“I was overwhelmed with the opportunity just to go hear him speak,” Nadler said.
But, not everyone gathered on UB’s campus was there to hear the president speak. Others were there to have their 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, support a continued moratorium on the practice and permanent ban here in New York state and promote the push toward renewable energies. The environmental protestors broke into chants and yelled through bull horns as those attending the speech passed by on their way to the doors.