By Skyler Gilbert and Gregory Zarb
Several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY/1) office in Patchogue on Monday afternoon to denounce the congressman’s inaction and complicity with what rally leaders called “Trump’s white supremacist agenda.”
The event was sponsored by Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist group, and co-sponsored by Progressive East End Reformers and Make the Road NY, a Latino immigrants’ rights group. One of the protesters, 23-year-old France Duffoo, said in a speech that she felt “freed” by DACA, the Obama immigration act that Trump and Zeldin are looking to repeal.
“It gave me the opportunity to be part of society,” Duffoo, who moved to the United States from Peru at age 6. “When you don’t have papers, you’re not part of society. My parents, undocumented, have suffered that a very long time … With DACA, I was finally able to study, to work, to drive. It let me be a person.”
The speech, one of five given during the event, was followed by a rousing applause. Several people in the crowd held signs, ranging from calls to action to caricatured drawings of Zeldin.
Organizers of the event stated four main demands to Zeldin: a censure of President Trump, a demand for the firing of White House official Stephen Miller, a call to remove Confederate symbols from the Capitol, and the passage of a clean DREAM Act to protect DACA beneficiaries.
Group organizers understand the unlikelihood of Zeldin, a fringe right-wing politician, adhering to that set of demands, however.
“Lee Zeldin is a personal embarrassment to us,” Bend the Arc spokeswoman Phyllis Hartmann said following the event. “He’s given no reason to think that he’s going to change. Really, I think the long-term goal is to replace him in the election in 2018.”
Two Jewish leaders, Rabbis Stephen Karol and Jan Uhrbach, spoke on the hypocrisy of Zeldin, one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, continuing to support leadership that has shown anti-Semitic undertones and allegiances.
“You cannot include Nazis as part of your political coalition, and not be complicit in their hate and violence,” Uhrbach said in her speech.
With every point the rabbi made, the crowd shouted “yes” in response with fists in the air, a theme throughout the high-energy event.
“I don’t understand how Zeldin can represent so many immigrants, so many undocumented people, and continue supporting this unjust platform,” college student Rodman Serrano, the son of El Salvadorian immigrants, said.
Trump himself has been more open in recent weeks to striking a deal with Democrats on DACA, but he is asking for funding for anti-immigration provisions — increased legal immigration barriers, a border wall, etc. — in response, according to a White House release on Sunday night.
Zeldin’s office did not respond to requests for interview for this story.
“I hope that seeing so many groups come together, seeing the energy not only here on Long Island, but across the country,” Uhrbach said after the event. “That it will at least give our Congress a little bit of courage to stand up for American values.”