February 16, By Hannah Wulkan
A group of Jackson Heights residents and local politicians are gathering tonight to protest State Senator Jose Peralta’s move to leave the Democratic Party and join the Independent Democratic Conference.
The group plans to rally outside the Jackson Heights Post Office at 78th Street and 37th Avenue at 6:30 tonight to voice their opposition to Peralta’s decision. Several politicians from the Democratic Party will also speak against Peralta’s move to the IDC, including Council Members Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras Copeland and Costa Constantinides, along with other community leaders.
This rally comes on the heels of a protest at Peralta’s town hall meeting earlier this month when he explained his decision to join the IDC. The town hall got rowdy with several hundred protesters both inside and outside the venue.
Peralta announced he would join the IDC in January, which is a group in the State Senate that split off from the Democratic Party and caucuses with the Republican Party, giving republicans a majority in the Senate.
“With Trump in office we can no longer depend on the federal government to come and fix what we have allowed to become corrupted at the state level,” said Yvonne Lassalle, one of the organizers of the event.
“Being part of a neighborhood as diverse and progressive as Jackson Heights is, it just seemed appalling to us that Senator Peralta could be so out of tune with the political times and think that making an alliance with republicans and empowering the Trump agenda at this moment of time was something his constituents were going to accept,” she added.
The rally was organized by a loose coalition of unhappy Jackson Heights residents, Lassalle explained. She said that outrage began growing over a long-standing email listserv of active Jackson Heights residents, and many of the members wanted to take action against what they saw as an egregious move on Peralta’s part.
After the protest at Peralta’s town hall, they decided to put together a formal rally against his move to the IDC.
“The surest way New Yorkers or any American citizen has to protect rights is at the state level,” Lassalle said. “If we don’t go out and make sure that our local politics work, we will be in a very dangerous position.”
She added that though the group is fairly amorphous, it would continue planning actions moving forward, including weekly check-ins and publicity material in many languages to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood.
“We feel that we have a unique opportunity to energize citizens to focus on local politics and understand what it takes to have an impact on local politics,” Lassalle said, “And I think the more citizens become engaged, the cleaner Albany will become and the sooner it will happen.”