Activists besiege ‘traitor’ Hamilton for joining GOP-aligned bloc

Activists besiege ‘traitor’ Hamilton for joining GOP-aligned bloc
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton is a “McDemocrat” who has betrayed his constituents by aligning himself with senate Republicans, said a group of activists who besieged the local lawmaker outside a Sunset Park community meeting on Thursday.

“We voted for Jesse as a Democrat and now he’s siding with Republicans and I’m incensed,” said Sunset Parker Johanna Coxeter. “He’s a Trojan Horse — a traitor. I feel betrayed.”

In November, Hamilton — whose district also encompasses parts of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Park Slope, and Crown Heights — became the sixth Democrat to join breakaway bloc the Independent Democratic Conference, which now contributes eight votes to the Grand Old Party’s nine-seat majority in Albany’s upper chamber, alongside Republican-caucusing Democrat state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Borough Park).

The group has been around since 2011, but is suddenly in the spotlight as panic over President Trump’s elevation to the White House trickles down to the state level, where local liberals want Democrats to protect them from the president’s policies on issues including immigration and abortion.

“I feel like it’s gone under the radar, and I’m glad people are paying attention now,” said Asya Pikovsky, a Crown Heights resident.

Around 100 protestors gathered on Thursday outside the Community Board 7 offices on 42nd Street near Fourth Avenue, where Hamilton participated in a panel on the Police Department’s “broken windows” strategy and its effect on immigrants.

Many of the protestors said they are the American-born sons and daughters of immigrants, and were there to insist Hamilton back bills that support their foreign-born friends and families — including the New York Dream Act, which will provide funds for undocumented college students and is currently being stonewalled by Republicans state senators.

“My parents came here legally and I was born here, but that doesn’t change the fact that I just got lucky, and I have a lot of friends and family that are still here illegally,” said Sunset Park resident Vanessa Sosa. “It’s not fair what’s going on.”

But Hamilton — who recently re-branded his Crown Heights headquarters as a “sanctuary senate district,” where he says he’ll offer legal services for immigrants fearing deportation — claimed that the very reason he joined the Independent Democratic Conference is to put himself in a position to negotiate the passage of legislation like the Dream Act, of which he is a sponsor.

“As a member of the IDC, I believe I am in a stronger position to build consensus around securing real solutions for all New Yorkers — including solutions around defending immigrant rights,” Hamilton said. “I believe I am more able to navigate those solutions through the legislative process.”

The two parties ended up sparring with competing chants — the senator and his staffers shouted “black lives matter” against the protestors’ calls of “Hispanic lives matter.”

A number of activists representing a cornucopia of other anti-Trump causes were also in attendance, seeking donations and support from protestors for their ongoing struggle against The Donald.

“I’m concerned with the whole police-state fascist program,” said Jonathan Brown, who traveled from the distant isle of Manhattan to represent the group Refuse Fascism. “We need to build a movement of millions of people and we need to print leaflets.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.