About 50 people gathered outside the State Supreme Court building in Riverhead at noontime today to renew demands for town hall meeting with Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The protesters, carrying signs and chanting as they went, marched in a steady cold rain from the courthouse to the congressman’s satellite office on West Main Street, where they were turned away. Zeldin’s district manager Mark Woolley, who attended a meeting with a group of about 90 people week ago at the Riverhead library, refused to meet with a handful of people who entered the building and went upstairs to Zeldin’s office unannounced.
“He took a bunch of letters we handed him,” said Edana Cichanowitz of Cutchogue.
Woolley came down the stairs to demand that the protestors assembled in the building lobby leave and allow the locked entry door to close. When a man leaning against the door refused, Woolley turned and climbed the stairs, instructing a staff member to call the building manager. He refused to answer a reporter’s questions.
“I have nothing to say. Call Jen DiSiena,” he told RiverheadLOCAL. DiSiena is Zeldin’s communications director.
The East End constituents’ demands ratcheted up a notch this week following Zeldin’s cancellation last week of an upcoming meeting that had been scheduled in April at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. It was to be a talk by Zeldin with a question and answer opportunity.
The meeting was canceled because it was “co-opted, renamed and rebranded by a group of liberal activists who were already holding strategy meetings to turn it into a disruptive show for their own political theater,” Zeldin’s executive assistant Nicole Paciello told organizer Eileen Duffy in a Feb. 2 email.
She called it “greatly unfortunate” that the upcoming event was “hijacked” by the same people who Paciello said protested outside a Jan. 28 event at an East Patchogue restaurant, where Zeldin was being honored by a Rotary club as “man of the year.”
The demonstrators are demanding a town hall meeting with Zeldin to ask him questions and express their views about his vocal support of President Trump’s agenda. They also say they want to discuss with Zeldin comments he has made on his Facebook page about demonstrators.
On Jan. 31, the day after his birthday, he thanked supporters for his birthday wishes on his Facebook page, saying, “It’s such a blessing to live in the greatest nation in the world and have the best friends and family. I love you all…even you Hillary supporters who have lost your beautiful minds since the election.”
After the Jan. 21 march on Washington, Zeldin wrote, “It looks like the Democratic Party is literally getting turned inside out right now in front of all of our eyes…just fascinating to watch unfold, especially the mainstream media’s coverage of it.”
Eileen Duffy of Quogue, an organizer of the demonstrations in Riverhead as well as a Facebook group called “Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin,” which has 1,290 members as of today, said Zeldin’s satellite office in Riverhead had been open to drop in visitors until the large groups began showing up there last month. The congressman changed the rules to meetings with staff by appointment only, she said.
“I think its unfortunate that Rep. Zeldin closed his Riverhead office to constituents who want to drop in,” Duffy said.
“Due to the small size of the office, and the new disruption tactics of these liberal obstructionists locally and nationally, this office is now by appointment only, which has been updated on our website,” Zeldin’s spokesperson said in an email. “There are other offices in the building as well,” she added.
DiSiena said Zeldin has had “two straight years of public forums, telephone town halls, and mobile office hours.” Several mobile office hours and telephone town halls are being planned for this year, she said.
“Unfortunately, liberal obstructionists locally and around the country have committed themselves to creating mass disruptions at public events for their own political theater. That is neither effective, productive or constructive,” DiSiena said. She pointed to the behavior of protestors at the Jan. 28 Rotary event in East Patchogue as an example. The protestors were “banging on car doors, jumping in front of cars, shining lights into cars and yelling at attendees to harass them,” DiSiena said.
In interviews with 27East.com organizers of that demonstration denied any such behavior occurred, while three Zeldin supporters provided accounts that described the behavior DiSiena attributed to the crowd. The website interviewed the commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Fifth Precinct, who said there were no official reports of any incidents.
“As far as I know, it was peaceful,” Inspector William Silva told 27East.com. “If anything happened, they didn’t report it to us.”
Editor’s note: This article has been amended to reflect comments provided post-publication by a spokesperson for the congressman.