By Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski
Hundreds of protestors peacefully rallied outside Rep. Peter King’s office in Massapequa Park Friday in opposition to President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy and the congressman’s alleged role in co-authoring the executive order enacting it.
Shouting chants including “This is what democracy looks like!” and “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” and waving signs with messages ranging from “No Hate No Fear Refugees Are Welcome Here” and “Hey Peter King: Your Grandparents Were Immigrants” to simply “No Ban,” demonstrators marched along adjacent sidewalks behind police barricades, a stream extending several blocks throughout Park Boulevard amid the rush-hour crush of dozens of commuters disembarking the nearby Long Island Rail Road station on their way home.
“It’s important that we get out here and let him know that his constituents in the area really do not approve of this at all,” Joe Tronolone, of Long Island Activists, told the Press outside King’s office. “He has a long history of being anti-Muslim.”
“The executive order rang very un-American, especially as New Yorkers in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty,” added Christine Pellegrino, another member of the group. “The executive order was abhorrent. We are a country that stands for better than discriminating against its own people.”
The mass gathering was the latest local venting of frustrations and discontent regarding the president’s recently implemented travel ban—deemed a ‘Muslim Ban’ by critics including human rights groups—which indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from entering the United States and additionally temporarily blocks travelers from six other Muslim-majority countries. On Thursday, about 100 demonstrators rallied outside U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office in Melville to urge the Democrat to hold Trump accountable for the immigration policy and his conservative cabinet nominations.
A Nassau County police officer at the Peter King rally Friday told the Press the department were planning for up to 300 protestors—with more joining the ranks as the demonstration progressed and temperatures sank. Standing in an adjacent lot were a small but passionate group of Trump supporters waving “Make America Great Again” signs and yelling “Build the wall!”
The travel directives, put into effect last Friday with the signing of an Executive Order by President Trump, resulted in the detention of more than 100 travelers and ensnared non-U.S. residents on student visas and green card holders. The president also through executive order last week set in motion his plans for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Mass protests erupted at airports across the country the following day, including JFK International Airport, and others overseas—with demonstrations still ongoing at some.
Since then, Rep. King (R-Seaford), member and former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and currently the chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, has come under scrutiny for reports that he helped President Trump craft the dictate.
Those allegations stem primarily from a recent interview on Fox News between former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro and former New York City Mayor-turned-Trump confidante Rudy Giuliani, in which Pirro asked Giuliani whether the ban had anything to do with religion, and how Team Trump decided upon those particular Muslim countries:
“I’ll tell you the whole history of it,” he responded, according to The Washington Post. “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Giuliani continued that he’d assembled a “whole group of other very expert lawyers on this,” including former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) and Rep. King.
“And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger—the areas of the world that create danger for us,” Giuliani told Pirro. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”
King has since denied he had any role in crafting Trump’s restrictive ban. On Friday afternoon, when asked for a comment regarding the protest, his spokesperson shared the following statement from King with the Press:
“While I strongly support the purpose of the refugee resettlement program, our main priority must be to protect the United States. The President’s Executive Order temporarily pausing immigration and refugee resettlement from the most dangerous terrorist nations to improve vetting procedures is appropriate and necessary.
“President Trump is building upon bipartisan legislation passed last Congress and signed by President Obama in the wake of the Paris attacks,” it continued. “I strongly support the right of Americans to conduct peaceful protests.”
Organizers of Friday’s protest told the Press they’d been calling King’s office for days leading up to the demonstration in the hopes of a sit-down with the congressman and had believed that a representative from his office would meet beforehand, only to find his office closed when they arrived prior to the demonstration.
A smattering of Trump supporters also attended Friday’s protest, chanting cries of “USA!” that were met with countering responses of “We are the USA!” from demonstrators.