About 70 people representing a patchwork of local Latino organizations rallied across the street from Hempstead Town Hall Wednesday evening in support of Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, who faces criminal harassment charges and calls for his resignation.
The group held signs that read: "Do Not Resign Mark Bonilla," "Never Give Up Mark Bonilla," and "Don't Hurt Our Community," and chanted: "Don't resign."
The Rev. Eliezer Reyes of Pentecostal Church of Hempstead said in an interview that Bonilla -- the town clerk for nine years -- has "served our community faithfully" and deserves to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Supervisor Kate Murray and the town board have called for Bonilla to resign.
"We are upset with the process. Mark Bonilla was asked to resign publicly in a very distasteful way," Reyes said. "I think right now they are in a political witch hunt."
Bonilla, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with two counts of official misconduct, coercion and attempted petty larceny. Three women in their 20s have made allegations "of a sexual nature" against Bonilla, describing a "hostile work environment," a law enforcement source has said.
Bonilla, who is due in court on Oct. 26, said at Wednesday's town board meeting he knew nothing about the rally. He said he is entitled to "due process and innocence until proven guilty," and that he appreciated the support.
Bonilla added he and his family are still discussing whether he will resign. He said earlier this week that he would make a statement on the matter Friday.
"It's nice that some people are standing up for due process and it'd be nice if my town board would do the same," said Bonilla, 50, of Bellmore.
Murray offered no response to Bonilla's comments or to the demonstration, town spokesman Mike Deery said.
Max Rodriguez, president of the Cuban Civic Club, said he was Bonilla's longtime special assistant until he retired last year.
"You have to let the legal process work," Rodriguez said. "If you haven't gone to court, how can you judge and say the person is guilty?"