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Crossing the protest line

Protesters from NY Communities for Change outside of

Protesters from NY Communities for Change outside of Sen. Todd Kaminsky's home on Wednesday. Credit: NY Communities for Change

Civic protest is a welcome and necessary hallmark of who we are. But when such protest becomes personal and inappropriately moves from the statehouse steps or city hall to a public official’s home, it becomes ugly and unhelpful.

That’s what happened when about two dozen protesters with New York Communities for Change, an advocacy group focused on economic and social justice, headed to State Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s Long Beach home this week. Bullhorn in hand, they stood in the street and loudly chanted, urging Kaminsky to come outside. The group, advocating for an eviction moratorium and rent relief, had decided Kaminsky wasn’t responsive enough when they came to his offices. So they took to his home, disrupting his neighbors and frightening young children in the area.

That’s when they crossed the line. They also threaten to return and plan to protest at the homes of Long Island’s five other Democratic state senators, too.

This escalation to the personal isn’t new and the targets aren’t limited to any side of the political spectrum. In 2017, thousands of protesters yelled outside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn apartment building. They’ve shown up at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home, and were outside Sen. Lindsey Graham’s residence before dawn to protest the filling of a Supreme Court seat, chanting, and using strobe lights and instruments.

It’s a departure from civil discourse, a deterioration of how we talk to and how we disagree with one another, and a decision by some — however inappropriate — that personal boundaries don’t matter. But they do, and they must. And if the point is just to get attention, it’s the wrong kind.

— The editorial board