Trump Opponents Target Zeldin

Rallies continue after congressman cancels an April town hall meeting

As myriad protests against President Donald J. Trump’s executive orders and apparent intentions continue around the country, tensions have mounted in the First Congressional District, where constituents have held rallies targeting Representative Lee I. Zeldin. Another is to be held in Riverhead, where Mr. Zeldin has an East End office, on Tuesday.

On Feb. 1, Representative Zeldin, who was re-elected by a substantial majority in November, cancelled a public appearance that was to be held in April at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton.

Although an office employee had initially said the cancellation was due to a scheduling conflict, Jennifer DiSiena, Mr. Zeldin’s communications director, said in an email on Tuesday that the event had been “co-opted, renamed, and rebranded” by “liberal obstructionists” who “have committed themselves to creating mass disruptions at public events for their own political theater.” As of yesterday, the event had not been rescheduled.

These constituents, Ms. DiSiena wrote, have “pledged allegiance to the ‘indivisible guide’ being funded and fueled by the far left nationally.” She apparently was referring to “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” a document that outlines grassroots organizing and advocacy.

On Tuesday, approximately 50 people held a rally outside the Suffolk County Supreme Court building in Riverhead. Participants marched to Mr. Zeldin’s office, on West Main Street, to demand a “town hall” meeting. “People tried to go upstairs” to deliver that demand, “but they had changed office hours to appointment only,” Eileen Duffy, who has formed a Facebook group called Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, said yesterday. “Then we turned around and marched back in the rain,” said Ms. Duffy, who lives in Quogue.

Mr. Zeldin’s website has been updated, announcing that the Riverhead office will no longer be open for walk-in visits. Instead, the office — which continues to be open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — will only welcome visitors by appointment. A call to that office yesterday seeking information as to when and why the policy had been changed from walk-in to appointment was referred to his main office in Patchogue.

A call to that office was referred to Ms. DiSiena. “Due to the small size of the office, and the new disruption tactics of these liberal obstructionists locally and nationally, this office is now by appointment only,” she said in an email yesterday. “We established a satellite office in Riverhead to help meet the needs of the constituents of the East End. This office has proven to be a great resource for East End constituents.” Protesters are disrupting the activities of other tenants in the building, she added.

Ms. Duffy said the group had informed police and obtained a mass gathering permit for Tuesday’s rally. “We had wranglers keeping everybody on the sidewalk. There was absolutely no disruption of traffic,” she said.

The previous Tuesday, approximately 90 people gathered at the Riverhead Library to protest President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and others from the United States, as well as anyone from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which Mr. Zeldin supports. Mark Woolley, the congressman's district director, met with and listened to the constituents' concerns, Ms. Duffy said. The executive order drew large protests in cities and at many of the country’s international airports. The Jan. 31 protest, in turn, followed an event three days earlier in East Patchogue, at which the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics honored Mr. Zeldin. Between 150 and 200 residents of the First District rallied outside the venue, and contradictory reports followed about what occurred.

In remarks distributed to multiple media organizations, Ms. DiSiena said protesters “were banging on car doors, jumping in front of cars, shining lights into cars, and yelling at attendees to harass them.” Protesters dispute that assertion.

Cindy Morris, who organized the protest, said yesterday that police officers never approached protesters during the event. “It was congested,” she said, “and perhaps it’s possible that the congressman’s people are interpreting that as people jumping in front of cars. However, at no time did people jump out to block any car.”

In an email yesterday, a spokesman for the Suffolk County Police Department would only say that no arrests had been made.

“We have a congressman who is refusing to hold town halls based on the erroneous claim that there was some disruptive behavior at an event,” Amy Turner, who lives in Wainscott, said in an email on Tuesday. In an opinion piece on the website of the online publication Southold Local on Monday, Ms. Turner alleged that since his re-election Mr. Zeldin had “insulted constituents who dare oppose his policies, refused repeated requests to schedule a town hall meeting, canceled an appearance where his constituents would finally have had an opportunity to question him directly, and then, taking a page right out of the Trump playbook, justified that cancellation by grossly misrepresenting the nature of a recent peaceful protest in East Patchogue.”

“The fact that he is insinuating that we were acting out of line is particularly upsetting to us because we are asking him to participate with us in the democratic process,” said Ms. Morris, who lives in Stony Brook and is a member of Time2Care Long Island, a group founded after the November election. “Now we need to have an appointment to go to his Riverhead office. He’s cutting us off from even visiting with his staff. If he does not hold public events that we are able to attend and have conversations with him, we are forced to attend private events so we can get his attention.”

For his part, on his Facebook page on Sunday, in what may have been a response to those who claim he is unwilling to meet with them, Mr. Zeldin wrote he “had a great weekend all around the district, including a public education forum at Longwood Middle School, Give a Kid a Smile event in Riverhead, Civil Air Patrol ball in Holbrook, Mastic Beach ambulance installation dinner in Wading River, and Smithtown G.O.P. Super Bowl brunch in Lake Ronkonkoma.”