At 11:56 a.m., there were only a handful of protestors chatting and erecting signs in a snowbank bordering the parking lot of Faso’s office, but a few minutes later, the crowd had grown to 60.
Faso Friday has been going on since January 2017, according to Citizen Action of New York, with protestors displaying their contempt at their freshman congressman and the broader policies of the Republican Party and the Trump administration.
It’s quite loud. People talk in large and fervent tones. They all try to get passing traffic on Broadway to honk their support, and every 10 or 15 seconds are rewarded with a frantic wail from a sedan, or a thunderous blast from a truck. A honky-tonk quartet bangs out a Dixieland version of “We Shall Overcome.”
Demonstrators often protest what they took issue with over the last seven days. It was two days since an expelled student allegedly opened fire at his former school in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people, so the talk was about gun violence. Protestors took issue with Faso’s support of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow gun owners with concealed carry permits from other states to carry their guns while traveling in New York, even though most states have far less stringent restrictions on applying for these permits.
The numbers of the group at Faso Friday often rose after mass shootings, Rogers said.
Rogers said she was for “common-sense gun laws,” such as not allowing people on the federal no-fly list to purchase guns, applying background checks to gun show purchases, and restricting the ability of people with significant mental illnesses from getting guns.
“We are not against the Second Amendment,” she said. “We think there are better ways to keep Americans safe.”
Money in politics was also a major issue, especially when you stir weapons into the mix, Rogers said.
“I think that money in politics contributes to this issue, because when we have a congressman like Faso” — she spat the word out like a curse — “receiving $5,950 from the NRA — that’s the money that he was paid to co-sponsor a bill like the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act that’s sitting in the Senate.”
Faso received EXACTLY that amount in direct contributions from the NRA during the 2016 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, though this is only a fraction of the more than $3 million he raised for the race.
People from a variety of grassroots organizations come to Faso Friday, said Marc Rider, the Chairman of the town of Ulster Democratic Committee, who was also at the demonstration.
“You see a lot of people from a lot of the different movements within the Resistance Movement,” he said. “It’s been going on for quite a few months. You see a bunch of different people with a bunch of different issues every time you come down here.”
Rider said he first came to Faso Friday early last summer, and felt the biggest issue facing the nation was big money in politics — an issue several democratic candidates vying for Faso’s seat, including Jeff Beals, have talked about at length.
Rider had met all six democratic primary candidates, he said. The candidates had all reportedly been to Faso Friday at one time or another, and the three people I asked said they
had met all of them, whether at the demonstration or elsewhere.
Antonio Delgado was there last Friday, mounting the curb with a small megaphone and giving an impassioned speech about gun control to the applause of the gathered.
“Our future is too valuable to let this keep happening,” he said of the Florida shooting. “Let’s step up now and continue — and not just step up when it happens. Step up every day. Every day have a sign, every day, speak out on every issue.”
Mike Wendel, who wore a sports coat and narrated the protest while recording it with his phone, said he “was of the Republican persuasion” for 35 years before having a falling out with the party over a local issue he said “would remain unspoken.”
Wendel registered as a Democrat so he could vote in the Democratic Primary and to register his displeasure with John Faso and Chris Gibson, Faso’s republican predecessor, but said he would vote for whichever candidate in the general election he could trust.
“I’m open to voting for anyone who I believe is honest and has the people’s best interest at heart,” he said.
Kingston is a blue city with a Republican representative, but not everyone in the area is against Faso. Rogers said motorists passing by occasionally yelled at them, and I was able to hear the following exchange mid-way through the protest:
Motorist: GET A JOB!
Protestor: YOU TOO!
Drive-by debates never get too deep into policy.
Not everyone at the protest was against Faso, either.
Two men donning Trump gear walked into the protest while I was conducting an interview, and I had to get their take.
One of the men, Santos Lopez, said he was a legal immigrant from the Philippians, a Navy Veteran, and supported Trump and Faso.
He disagreed with the anti-Faso contention that the Congressman was inaccessible, saying he had talked to Faso, and his staff had even set up a tour for him when he visited Faso’s office in Washington D.C.
Lopez took specific issue with demonstrators supporting “illegal immigrants” and sanctuary cities.
Kingston’s Common Council passed a resolution in January 2017 declaring itself “welcome and inclusive” to undocumented immigrants, according to the Daily Freeman, one of dozens of cities to do so, including Hudson, to Kingston’s North.
“Why should there be this issue of sanctuary cities? — I have problems with that,” he said. “Why do I have to come here legally, spend thousands of [dollars], and then other people go ahead of the line? Is it Disneyland, is it an amusement park where [people] can just have head-of-the-line privileges because they want to?”
He said demonstrators were causing divisions in the country, and they liked to protest more than find solutions.
While thanking him for the interview, a woman holding a sign stepped between us.
“I don’t think they should be here — they should stand over there,” the woman said to me while pointing off to the side.
“Divisiveness,” Lopez’s buddy whispered.
A man with a pick-up had attached a series of protest signs between two boards and erected the column of dissent on the truck’s bed.
Checko Miller said he had a plethora of protest signs, and he re-jiggered which would appear at the protest each week.
Miller said he was concerned about the future of Medicare, and thought the recent Republican tax cuts were “a pretense to them saying ‘we have no money, we’re going to take away your Medicare.’”
Miller found his political footing during the Vietnam War demonstrations, he said.
“I advocated for [eventual democratic President Lyndon] Johnson to get into office in high school,” he said. “When I was a kid, I was chairperson of the Young Democrats, and four years later, when I’m at Dutchess Community College, I’m out marching the streets to get rid of him. It’s just been part of my nature.”
“As people get out there consistently in large numbers, it can make a difference, and I tell people — it’s one thing for you to support this, but if you’re not visible and you’re not calling [Faso’s] office, or if you’re not writing letters, you’re not doing something,” he said.
Protesting every week may not necessarily change things, Miller said, but action creates hope for him, and stops him from simply being a victim.
“If you do something, you won’t feel so powerless…they say, ‘why don’t [elected] Democrats do this,’ and I want to say, ‘why don’t YOU do something,’” he said.
Faso Fridays are also held at Faso’s office in Kinderhook, Columbia County, and Delhi, Delaware County.
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