The controversy over a campaign staffer to Republican state Sen. Martin Golden inviting an alt-right leader to speak at a GOP club continued to escalate as a Bay Ridge social justice organization demonstrated in front of the lawmaker’s campaign headquarters and supporters staunchly defended him.
The group Bay Ridge for Social Justice held a protest rally outside Golden’s campaign office at 7615 Third Ave. on Oct. 21 to demand that the senator fire Ian Reilly.
Reilly who manages Golden’s campaign office is being heavily criticized for inviting Gavin McInnes, a leader of the alt-right group Proud Boys, to speak at a meeting of the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side on Oct. 12.
A melee took place between members of the Proud Boys and left-leaning protesters on the street outside the club and several arrests have been made in connection with the incident.
Alex Pellitteri, a leader of Bay Ridge for Social Justice, said the organization’s members feel strongly that Golden should fire Reilly from his campaign staff. “By inviting the Proud Boys, he is essentially saying that he agrees with them,” Pellitteri said of Reilly.
Reilly is the chairperson of the executive committee of the Metropolitan Republican Club.
“Gavin McInnes’ views were very well known before that meeting,” Pellitteri told this newspaper.
Members of Fight Back Bay Ridge, Yalla Brooklyn and the Democratic Socialists of America also took part in the protest rally, according to Pellitteri, who estimated that at least 50 or 60 people were there.
Golden, a Republican who represents a swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Marine Park, is running for re-election on Nov. 6. His Democratic opponent is Andrew Gounardes, a lawyer and Bay Ridge civic activist.
A supporter of Golden’s angrily disputed Pellitteri’s view. “It’s ridiculous to say that inviting someone to speak at your meeting means that you support everything that person says,” the supporter told this newspaper.
Another Golden supporter defended the McInnes appearance on First Amendment grounds. “Doesn’t he have a right to free speech? The last time I checked, the First Amendment doesn’t just cover people you like,” the supporter said.
But Pellitteri said the protesters have a First Amendment right, too. “In the society that allows free speech, it is the responsibility of all good people to drown out those who use it to spread hate,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Reilly controversy has gained national attention.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which labeled the Proud Boys as a hate group, recently featured an editorial from NewsOne about the Golden-Reilly situation on the Hatewatch Headlines page on its website, https://bit.ly/2Da6Zm1.
Closer to home, Gounardes has also called on Golden to bounce Reilly from his campaign staff.
“Hate has no place in this election and no place in our southern Brooklyn communities. Marty Golden must immediately break his ties with his hate-peddling campaign staffer Ian Reilly,” Gounardes said in a statement.
Golden has stated publicly that he has no intention of firing Reilly. “He’s staying!” Golden said at a raucous Bay Ridge Community Council debate on Oct. 23 where the controversy came up.
“Ian Reilly is the campaign’s office manager, and will continue to serve in that role, as he has capably and professionally for several months,” Golden campaign spokesperson Michael Tobman told this newspaper in a recent email.