About 15 Latino activists who were set to protest Rep. Lee Zeldin’s endorsement of Donald Trump were surprised to find a counterprotest Saturday afternoon outside the congressman’s Patchogue office.
Nearly 20 counterprotesters holding signs supporting Zeldin’s re-election bid awaited protesters at 31 Oak St.
The protesters, however, waited until police arrived to cross the street and begin their news conference about 15 feet from the Zeldin (R-Shirley) supporters.
“We wish we didn’t have to be here today,” said Walter Barrientos of Make the Road Action, a political group that advocates on issues affecting minority communities. “But the racial tensions around the country that have been flamed by the rhetoric that Donald Trump has been instilling in our communities and is putting out in the media calls us . . . to take a stand against hate.”
Make the Road Action, which hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the 1st District congressional race, wanted to show its discontent with Zeldin ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention.
“Enough is enough,” said Matthew Ugaz, 18, a 1st District resident who will vote for the first time in a congressional election. “The hate must stop. The people of color who reside in New York’s 1st District do not accept the actions of condoning the hatred.”
Barrientos said his group was protesting the racism in the 2016 presidential race, not Zeldin’s re-election bid.
Zeldin, who endorsed Trump in May, has called the presumptive Republican nominee a better candidate, despite some of his comments, than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Jennifer DiSiena, a Zeldin spokeswoman, called Saturday’s protest a misinformed liberal political ploy to persuade Long Islanders to support Hillary Clinton.
“We aren’t going to let Nancy Pelosi and her henchmen set us backwards with any more nasty, deceptive and negative attacks on Congressman Zeldin,” DiSiena said. “It won’t work.”
The counterprotesters said Zeldin had done more in his first term than his predecessor.
Richard and Rebecca Darmanin of Port Jefferson said they wanted to show support for Zeldin because they believed he had held up every campaign promise he made.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” said Richard Darmanin, who plans to vote for Zeldin again.