Constituents of New York’s 23rd Congressional District are on the second day of a sit-in at Congressman Tom Reed’s Ithaca office, having slept on the floor of the windowless, fourth floor, 100 square foot office. They had been told by the congressman’s staff that they could stay as long as they wanted. “We just want to talk to our representative in Congress at this troubled time for our country” said Todd Saddler, one of six who visited the office Tuesday morning, and have refused to leave until they are able to communicate directly with Reed.
The six, members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker, brought messages of love and a gift basket for the congressman and his staff, in honor of Valentine’s Day. The statement they presented to Rep. Reed’s staff read, in part, “…we love you. That love also requires us to tell you the truth. We ask that you support policies that embody faith and love of each human being, without exception…”
Their statement asked the following of the congressman:
1) speak out against the executive order banning people from seven Muslim majority countries and refugees and vote against any legislation that would support such a ban; 2) vote for the Protect American Families Act; 3) vote against any funding or authorization of a border wall; 4) vote against repealing the ACA; 5) speak out and vote against construction of the pipeline at Standing Rock.
The six who began the sit in are Tompkins County residents: Daniel Burns, Ellen Grady, Neil Golder, Todd Saddler, Leah Grady Sayvetz, and Dan Burgevin.
Since Tuesday morning, a steady stream of constituents have made their way to the downtown Ithaca office to express concerns to the congressman. Many local residents who visited were unaware that a sit in was in progress. As news spread, others crowded in to support the sit-in and voice many of the same concerns, and other issues and policies related to President Trump’s agenda.
Many constituents are demanding that Congressman Reed hold a town hall meeting in Ithaca so that they can express their interests directly, and have a dialog about the merits of different policy positions. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick visited the sit-in Tuesday night, and expressed support of the demand for a town hall meeting in the area. The Mayor reported to the sit-in participants that he had sent an email to Reed’s office Tuesday morning requesting a town hall be held here next week. Myrick had been unaware that the sit-in was unfolding at the same time.
The office has now been decorated with valentines, and sports a sign which reads “The People’s Town Hall Meeting: Open Now!” Many visitors had their messages live streamed and posted on Facebook at the page of sit-in participant Daniel Joseph Burns. Most were critical of Reed’s support of the Trump agenda, with only one man voicing support for Trump.
Congressman Reed’s District Director Alison Hunt informed the group that Reed is busy in Washington, and his schedule would not allow him to talk with them. He did, however, find time to appear in an interview on “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday, in which the congressman called those sitting in “extremists”. He also said “I don’t know exactly what they’re protesting.”
The sit-in participants were mystified to hear their representative say he didn’t know what they are protesting, since they provided clearly written statements of the steps they are asking him to take. They are eager to decamp and return to their busy lives as soon as they can discuss their requests with Reed.
Their statement to the congressman included this summary: “While we appreciate that your rhetoric is not mean, rude and hateful like President Trump’s, you are nevertheless supporting his policies. These policies do not come from or reflect love, they do not represent us your constituents, and they are deeply hurting many people.”
February 14, 2017
Representative Tom Reed
U.S. Representative for New York’s 23rd Congressional District
Dear Representative Reed:
On this Valentine’s Day of love, we come to your Ithaca office to present you with some of the fruits of love and justice and to tell you that we love you. That love requires us to tell you the truth. We begin our words by acknowledging that here in Ithaca we live on stolen Cayuga land taken through a campaign of conquest and terror by the United States Government. Our nation is founded on a legacy of violence against indigenous people and people of color. President Trump’s rhetoric and policies perpetuate this same violence and our silence would mean consent.
President Trump’s policies do not come from or reflect love, they do not represent us your constituents, and they are deeply hurting all of us.
We ask that you support policies that embody faith and love of each human being, without exception.
Today, we ask you to:
1) Speak out against Trump’s unconstitutional executive order banning people and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, acknowledge US war-making as the driver of today’s refugee crisis, and vote against any legislation that would support such a ban;
2) Vote for the Protect American Families Act to prohibit the creation of an immigration-related registry program that classifies people on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship;
3) Vote against any funding or authorization of Trump’s proposed border wall that scapegoats immigrants and refugees;
4) Oppose the detention and deportation of our undocumented friends, family, and community members;
5) Vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act;
6) Speak out and vote against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, Keystone XL pipeline, and other destructive fossil fuel infrastructure.
Because so many of us have written and called you and received no meaningful response, we must insist that you speak to us about these issues now, that you listen to our response and that we have a back and forth direct communication with you.
“Justice is what love looks like in public”—Cornel West
Members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker Community:
Neil H. Golder
Leah Grady Sayvetz
Feb 14, 2017
Dear Representative Reed,
Greetings on this Valentine’s Day, a day when so many around the world celebrate love. Congressman, today I see a world where love shines through small cracks in a heavy blanket of hate and fear. Our native brothers and sisters have gathered at Standing Rock in the many thousands, representing over three hundred first nations. Many thousands more non-indigenous neighbors, including several thousand veterans of the United States Military have joined them. The message coming from Standing Rock rings loud and clear: Water is Life. To deny this fact denies life itself. Standing Rock speaks for all of us. And yet, we see water protectors repeatedly brutalized, terrorized, jailed.
Congressman, I had the privilege of joining the many thousands at Standing Rock. I experienced there the most honest representation of loving one another- a culture of sharing, hospitality, and truth. This movement opens a door for love where love means truth, where love means justice, where love means common care. This love unites mothers at Standing Rock with mothers of black sons and daughters murdered by police here in the US, with immigrant mothers deported and separated from their US-born children, with refugee mothers fleeing from the terrors of US war-making abroad. Today I beseech you as my representative in Congress, on behalf of all mothers, fathers, and children, to use your voice for love, for truth and for justice. Call today for the immediate halt of violence against water protectors at Standing Rock and the halt of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Leah Grady Sayvetz, Ithaca, NY
Dear Representative Reed,
Greetings on this Valentine’s Day!
We come to your office today to voice our opposition to the disastrous policies that President Donald Trump is enacting and that you are supporting.
On this day that we celebrate love, we remember in Mark’s gospel that Jesus says, the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with our whole heart and whole mind and the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. President Trump’s executive order to build a wall on the boarder with our neighbor Mexico, and to aggressively round-up undocumented people in this country is the opposite of following Jesus’ command.
In the words of the Jesuit priest, Father James Martin “At the Last Judgment, (Jesus) will say to people, ‘I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.’ And people will say, ‘When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you?’ And he will say, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ … It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors.”
How can we be silent as families are torn apart, children are terrified, parents are detained. As we saw last Thursday with a family in Arizona where Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, the mother of two teenaged American citizens was deported after being in this country and paying taxes for 21 years. I ask you not to be an accomplice to hate and fear. I speak to you today as a fellow Roman Catholic and I implore you to be guided by love for our neighbor and as Pope Francis said last Wednesday build bridges not walls. I ask that you stop supporting Donald Trump and his policies of fear. God bless and keep you.
In Peace, Ellen Grady
Dear Representative Reed,
I deliver this valentine to you today out of love and respect, and with the hope and prayer that you will be led by love in the work you do as my representative.
The people of Ithaca have been hard at work getting ready to receive and welcome refugees, especially those from war-torn Syria. It is out of love and care that we (and others across the country) wish to serve those in need by making a place for them in our neighborhoods and hearts. After all, many are refugees as a result of destruction caused by U.S. war-making.
These efforts are being thwarted by President Trump’s executive order which you support.
I believe that this ban comes out of excessive and unreasonable fear and goes against the American spirit of generosity.
I ask that you stop supporting this order, that you speak out against it and that you support legislation
to increase the number of refugees—especially from Syria– allowed into our country. It is now pathetically small compared to many other developed nations.
In short, I ask that you allow love rather than fear to guide your actions.
Neil H. Golder
Dear Congressman Reed,
Without expensive cancer treatment, I would be dead. Without insurance, we would be bankrupt.
My life has been treated as precious, both because of the love of those around me, but also because of my position of unearned privilege in this country; I insist that this same consideration be extended to all people here in my country.
I agree with the Popes, and the Bishops, and the majority of Americans, who hold that access to health care is a right for every person, and not a lucrative consumer product to be made available only to those who can afford it.
I am asking you NOT to vote for any bill repealing the Affordable Care Act UNLESS it also includes enacting the Medicare for All act, HR 676, which makes access to health care universal in the United States and also reduces the cost of health care.
Will you do that?
Your beloved constituent,
Dear Ithaca Community and Beyond,
I want to take the time to thank you for all of your gracious help, support and prayers over the past seven years. Some of you may know that I am 124 years old this year. I have seen a lot of change in this neighborhood in my time. The trees have grown taller, some are even gone, like the old walnut that grew by the woodshed. I’ve been a church three times ever since I was built so I am quite at home with being the Peter De Mott Catholic Worker House. It makes me happy to be part of the many works of mercy and peace and justice work. Thanks for my new coats of paint! I was truly impressed with the painters and all the time and energy that went into making me so pretty again. Thanks for my new foundation! I feel solid again. Thank you for all your financial support, love and sweat that went into making me the pretty yellow house on Plain Street. I hope to stand tall for many more years and be a place where all people can feel welcome and loved. Come over and see me sometime! Thanks again for everything. May God bless and goodness be my cornerstone! Love, The Peter De Mott Catholic Worker House (Formerly known as Grandma Gumps Lighthouse Church of Jesus Christ, The Ilmani Healing Temple, and The Reform Temple of Jesus Christ)
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to be with us today. I want say happy Father’s Day to all you fathers! Thanks for spending part of your day with us.
I’m going to talk briefly about the quote on the t-shirt and why we chose it.
Peter loved and was inspired by Dan Berrigan, the Jesuit priest, poet, and activist, who died a little over a month ago at the age of 95.
As I sat at Dan’s funeral and heard the words of the action statement of the Catonsville 9, I was deeply moved.
The Catonsville 9 were a group of 9 people, including Dan Berrigan, who, in May of 1968, saw the horror and bloodshed of what was happening in Vietnam and at home. Martin Luther King had been assassinated only a month before their action. The group decided to go to a draft board office in Catonsville MD and remove all A-1 draft files, take them out to the parking lot, and burn them with homemade napalm. A bold and courageous act of conscience!
The 9 began their action statement of intent with what’s written on your shirts:
“Our apologies good friends for the fracture of good order the burning of paper instead of children the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house We could not so help us God do otherwise For we are sick at heart our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children”
I won’t read all of the statement…you have copies of the statement in your shirts…
But I just want to share one more excerpt:
“All of us who act against the law
turn to the poor of the world to the Vietnamese to the victims to the soldiers who kill and die for the wrong reasons for no reason at all because they were so ordered by the authorities of that public order which is in effect
a massive institutionalized disorder We say: Killing is disorder life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize for the sake of that order we risk our liberty our good name The time is past when good men may be silent when obedience can segregate men from public risk when the poor can die without defense How many indeed must die before our voices are heard how many must be tortured dislocated starved maddened? How long must the world’s resources be raped in the service of legalized murder?When at what point will you say no to this war? We have chosen to say with the gift of our liberty if necessary our lives: the violence stops here the death stops here the suppression of the truth stops here this war stops here Redeem the times!”
When thinking about what I wanted to share today, I thought we should start with a moment of silence for the people who were killed in Orlando last Sunday, but then I remembered that, that’s how we began last year’s trot, with a moment of silence for the victims of the Charleston mass shooting, and it occurred to me that yes we need to mourn the dead, all those precious, precious lives lost, but we don’t need to be silent…and, in fact, our voices need to be heard loud and clear, no mincing words; Stop the violence! Stop the killing!
Right now, in this world, we need to be as bold as the people who took that action in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968.
The 2016 Peter De Mott Peace Trot was a great success! A huge thank you to everyone who came out to run, walk, or stroll and to ALL the amazing volunteers! Not one, but three runners broke the previous course record (16:56) this year. Andris Goncarovs broke his own record by 22 seconds, returning to run the Peace Trot after having won the 2014 race. Sawyer Hitchcock , the second place finisher at 16:41 and Jesse Capellaro, the third place finisher at 16:52 also ran faster than the previous best course time.
Amelia Kaufman was the fastest woman runner and successfully defended her Peace Trot title. She ran 7 seconds fastest than her 2015 time.