Andreas Psahos / Sun Contributor

State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-N.Y.) speaks at an event to clean up the Tompkins County Republican headquarters.

October 23, 2020

Rep. Tom Reed Holds “Clean Up Ithaca” Event Condemning Counterprotest at Last Week’s Trump Rally

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Faded graffiti took the place of the “Vote Republican” banner above the Tompkins County Republican storefront as the only words on the building, which was the site of last Friday’s clash between Trump supporters and counterprotesters.

A week later, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) held an event to clean up the building.

On Thursday, Reed joined area Republicans in condemning the counterprotesters’ methods, calling their behavior “hateful” and “childish.” New York State GOP Chair Nick Langworthy, State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-N.Y.) and Tompkins County GOP Chairman Mike Sigler joined Reed in front of the headquarters.

After Friday’s events, which saw blocked traffic, physical altercations and a two-hour stand-off, Reed’s message focused on nonviolence, open debate and the protection of free speech.

“You stand up to that extremism, and you do it the way Gandhi and Martin Luther King demonstrated,” Reed said to the 20 Republican supporters inside the building before the event started. ”You do it with a pure heart, you do it with nonviolence and you win the hearts and minds of not only the present generation but most importantly the next generation.”

“Today marks the beginning of the New Republican party, and it starts right here in Tompkins County,” he continued.

Langworthy focused on condemning Friday’s events and rebuking those who he thought had not done enough to stop the violence that ensued at the protests. His criticisms targeted Democratic leaders — including Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and Tracy Mitrano, the Democratic candidate for Tom Reed’s congressional seat — for a lack of solidarity following the vandalism of the storefront.

He also criticized Cornell, focusing on comments Prof. Russell Rickford, history, made in The Sun last week, in which he applauded the counterprotest.

“[Someone advocating for] damaging property and physically threatening another human being has no business being employed by an educational institution like Cornell University,” Langworthy said. “[Rickford] completely crossed the line with his actions and his comments and he should be terminated for that.”

Throughout the event, counterprotesters returned to wave signs and chant, interrupting the speeches. At one point, when counterprotesters yelled “Shame on you” at Reed, he responded simply with, “We forgive you.”

Langworthy, Sigler and O’Mara refused to be intimidated and named the power of Ithaca’s Republican “silent majority.”

“No matter how loud you yell or scream, we will not be intimidated, we will not be threatened, we will not be forced into submission,” said Langworthy, addressing the counterprotesters. “This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, whether you like it or not. We will not cave to socialists, not now, not ever.”

Sigler continued to reject the counterprotesters chants that Trump supporters “Don’t belong” in Tompkins County.

“In Ithaca, believe it or not, about 25 percent of your neighbors are conservative,” Sigler said. “They are the ones who are your cashiers, they are the ones washing your cars, these are the ones that are your teachers. When you are protesting this idea [of free speech], you are protesting your neighbors.”

But the few counterprotesters continued chanting through the half-hour of speeches.  And during O’Mara’s speech, one counterprotester broke through a cluster of Tompkins Republicans and stuck his middle fingers up at each of the TV cameras, reciting “Fuck Donald Trump” into each one.

Other counterprotesters spoke directly to the politicians, including Reed, about their concerns.

“That’s who you’re backing right now, Tom: the president, who is putting children in cages at the border, and 554 children’s parents can’t be located,” one counterprotester said. “No, I won’t be quiet. I’m sorry, I tried to talk to you politely before, Tom, but you never respond. I write you letters, I do all the things like you’re supposed to do.”

Following the speeches, Reed directed a maintenance worker to begin fully removing the remnants of graffiti from the storefront’s wall. The Republican cohort then signed a new “Vote Republican 2020” banner, paid for by Reed. They mounted the banner shortly, before removing it after counterprotesters threatened to tear it down — as they had with the first.

After the event, the Republicans went back into the storefront, and a number of counterprotesters followed them inside and refused to exit. The two Ithaca police officers on the scene then grabbed and removed the counterprotesters.

In the exchange, one counterprotester was arrested for harassment, leading to hours of protests outside the Ithaca Police Department headquarters and six more arrests.