The energy of the Bay Ridge Rally on Saturday, January 9, 2020, calling for the resignation of newly elected Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis, was palpable from beginning to end. Just before noon, a small, entirely masked crowd began to gather around Congressmember Malliotakis’s office at 7716 3rd Avenue within the limits of police barricades. Attendees stretched along the avenue, between 77th St and 78th St. With some signs saying “Lies for political advantage, truth for democracy,” the protestors’ frustration was visible. Within 10 minutes, that crowd had increased to hundreds, and the barricades were pulled back into the street to accommodate its size.
Chris McCreight, President of the Bay Ridge Democrats, Democratic State Committee Person for District 64, and organizer of this rally, gave opening remarks and introduced the speakers gathered to condemn Congressmember Malliotakis’ objection to certifying the presidential electors in both Arizona and Pennsylvania, inspiring the gathering of insurrectionists who attempted the first coup in American history by invading the Capitol and several federal buildings nationwide.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was quick to denounce both Congressmember Malliotakis’ continued refusal to acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and maintained support for objecting to Arizona and Pennsylvania electors.
"All of the enablers who are now talking about unity — their definition of unity should not be oppressive, and it should not be arrogant,” he said. “If you enabled this President, that insurrection, and then went in and voted against the certification, your unification call has to come with action because you've already done enough with your words.”
Councilmember Justin Brannon reminded the crowd that “Nicole Malliotakis took an oath; within 72 hours she sold us out.”
“Five people died that day; you went back that night and you still voted with President Trump,” he continued.
Councilmember Brad Lander (D39) took the argument a bit further, calling on Congressmember Malliotakis to join the movement to impeach and remove President Donald Trump.
“Are you on the side of the white supremacist past,” Lander asked. “Or are you on the side of an inclusive, multiracial, democratic future?”
Among non-elected speakers in attendance was Jasi Robinson, a Black Lives Matter activist and member of the Staten Island branch of the Democratic Socialists of America. Robinson reflected on her own experiences of police brutality while peacefully protesting this summer, and the stark difference of the treatment of violent insurrectionists during the events of January 6.
“Michelle Obama said when they go low, we go high, [but] I'm sorry, I'm not there yet,” she said. “I believe in meeting people where they are and letting them know how real you are, where your beliefs are.”
Robinson’s perspective, that of a Black, female activist brought distinct insight regarding the derivative effects of this insurrection. She noted that the differences in how Black protesters were treated by police this summer, compared to the seditionists, could cause further psychological damage to Black Americans. The lawmakers did not delve into this.
Linda Sarsour, American political activist and former Women’s March organizer, was last to speak, leaving lasting remarks impressed upon the crowd. “My parents fleed a military occupation so they could find freedom in America,” Sarsour said of her family's journey from Palestine.
“Nicole Malliotakis claims that she is the daughter of a Cuban immigrant that fleed a dictatorship, just so that her daughter, Nicole, can uphold a dictatorship right here in the USA,” she said. “I would be ashamed to have a daughter like Nicole."
Across the Verrazano Bridge that same morning, a smaller crowd organized by Sustainable Staten Island (SSI) gathered about 60 people at 1911 Richmond Ave, Congressmember Malliotakis’ new Staten Island office. The size of the crowd did not deter or diminish their readiness to speak, act, and call out the Congressmember. The tone was equally critical throughout the entire 11th Congressional District.
Steve Lawton, Co-Founder of SSI and a Labor Leader, categorically rejected Congressmember Malliotakis’ objection to the Presidential election.
“The objections, absent any precedent or evidence, coincided with President Trump’s orders to storm the Capitol resulting in the violent insurrection by white supremacists,” he said. “She is not guilty by association; she is an accomplice in a seditious plot against the American government and therefore, she needs to be removed as per Article 14 section 3 of the US Constitution.”
Following this rhetoric, Ruth Silverberg, Professor at CSI, member of Professional Staff Congress, the union of CUNY Professionals, and member of SSI, asked the crowd,“Did we want Malliotakis to win?”
The overwhelming response to her question was the negative. Silverberg also highlighted that Staten Islanders who didn’t support Congressmember Malliotakis’ campaign peacefully accepted her victory in November.
“Because we believe in democracy, and we believe that what we do in a situation like this is organize to get people into power that are going to treat people differently, just like Stacy Abrams did," she explained.
KC Hankins, President of the Young Democrats of Richmond County, vehemently denounced Congressmember Malliotakis’ perseverance in directly encouraging violent behavior with her inaction.
“ [Representative Malliotakis] has extreme power to quell the violence of her supporters, but she is afraid to do it,” he said. “Everyday that goes on without a strong condemnation of the lies of election fraud is laying the seeds for future violence against our democracy.”
Hankins, instead, offered a positive strategy of action.
“We will relentlessly hold her to account,” he explained. “We must collectively raise our voices to reject violence and bigotry, [and] we must unify our base to reject bad faith politics.”
Yesenia Mata, Military Specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve and executive director of La Colmena, had also reached out to Congressmember Malliotakis’ office for a conversation about the district, particularly in regards to immigration. Mata’s inquiries received similar negligence.
“As women, I believe that we can accomplish great things together; instead, she has turned her back not just on her constituents but also on her oath to uphold the Constitution by voting to overturn a free election in Arizona and around the country,” she said. “This kind of representation is not what this district nor this country deserves."
The takeaway from both rallies was clear. Speakers from Staten Island mentioned countless effective methods of achieving political goals, none of which need to include violence, seditious action, or outright lies. Grassroots organizing was championed by some, resulting in rallies and online actions. Inspired by activists calling out the newly elected Congressmember in front of her offices, both Staten Island and Brooklyn activists started a #ResignMalliotakis social media effort that took shape on Twitter on January 9. The hashtag was trending for several hours that same evening. Both rallies loudly displayed what they meant by unity. A proper response was not dismissing what had happened, but instead coming together as legislators, community organizers, activists, and neighbors to take peaceful, effective action.
Cover Photo: Two attendees hold signs in support of the Bay Ridge rally on January 9, 2021. Left sign reads “MalliotaKKKis only turns a BLIND EYE to PROUD BOYS.” Right sign reads “VOTE TO IMPEACH.” Photographs by Nicolette Suberska for Plea for the Fifth
If you liked this piece and want to see more like it, please click here.