Town spokeswoman Susan Trenkle Pokalsky confirmed that Bonilla was not invited to the Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony, which honored local residents whom officials said had made significant contributions to the Hispanic community and the town. She said Murray and Town Board members “made their position clear with regard to the town clerk” and did not have any comment about Wednesday’s protest.
The organizers, who brandished signs with statements like “Stop the witch hunt,” “Don’t hurt our community” and “Justice for all,” wanted residents to boycott the ceremony because they said the Hispanic community should be united behind Bonilla.
Luis Salgado, of Merrick, said Bonilla has been a great help to Long Island’s growing Hispanic community. Salgado suggested that Bonilla, who is the first Hispanic elected to a town-wide position in Hempstead, may be facing racial persecution.
“We feel that because he’s a minority, he’s been singled out,” he said. “We want to let him know that he’s not alone, and that there are a lot of people supporting him.”
Other supporters said they felt Bonilla has been a good clerk to town residents of all races and is innocent until he is proven guilty in a court of law.
Bishop Fernando Rodriguez of the Latino/African American Chaplains Association said he felt Murray made a mistake by asking Bonilla to resign a day after he was arrested. By doing this, he said, the supervisor may have swayed the public to believe Bonilla was guilty of the crimes he has been accused of before a trial.
The bishop, whose 48-church group has 310 members in Freeport and Hempstead, said Bonilla has been a friend to the Latino/African American Chaplains Association and other organizations, which is why they demonstrated at the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
“We tend to support people when things are going well, but we also have to support people when things are not so great,” he said. “All we are asking is to let the system do its work.”
Rodriguez said organizers are planning other demonstrations and are continuing to brainstorm ways to support Bonilla before his court date on Oct. 26.