Bay Ridge protests pro-‘Muslim ban’ Rep. Donovan

Ban Dan, not Muslims: Bay Ridgite Kathy Lilleskov made the trek to Downtown to protest Congressman Dan Donovan’s support for President Trump’s immigration ban.
Community News Group / Caroline Spivack

Protesters heckled Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) at a private event Downtown, because he supports President Trump’s controversial immigration ban.

Donovan was appearing at an aptly named Brooklyn Newsmaker’s breakfast on Monday, along with a buffet of borough congresspeople, to talk about Trump’s potential impact on local business, but disrupters harangued him until police forced many to leave.

Critics charged that the freshman lawmaker bailed on his Muslim constituents in Bay Ridge, when he defended Trump’s executive order blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries last week.

“Donovan has turned his back on thousands of his constituents, and we feel it was important that we stand and turn our backs on him,” said Bay Ridgite Kayla Santosuosso, a member activist group Bay Ridge for Social Justice and a consultant at the Arab American Association of New York. “I think that it’s unacceptable that he supports the ban when Bay Ridge has so many Muslim-Americans with ties to these countries. And we feel it’s particularly important now more than ever that we hold our elected officials accountable.”

But the private event was not the time for a political debate — especially across an auditorium, said Donovan.

“Protests have a proper place and time. The Chamber spent a lot of time putting together a panel for their membership to hear from policy makers on taxes, regulations, and health care,” said Donovan. “The disrupters took away that opportunity and hijacked the Chamber’s event. We can disagree, but to shout down opinions because they’re different from your own contradicts the basic concept of open discourse and deprives others of an opportunity to hear from every side.”

Trump’s order denies entry to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia, but a judge issued a restraining order on it last week, so it is not being enforced. The Trump administration is appealing that stay.

Donovan, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, has defended Trump’s move, saying it was in the nation’s best security interest.

Activist groups Bay Ridge for Social Justice, Fight Back Bay Ridge, Bay Ridge Democrats, and even some Staten Island groups joined in. It was a moment for locals to ban together and make their voices heard, said one demonstrator.

“We need him to hear us that there are a lot of us who disagree with him,” said Bay Ridgite Kathy Lilleskov. “This is a moment for those of us who feel like our voices haven’t been heard to come together and deliver that message to him.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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