Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) was one of the 67 members of Congress who did not attend the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Friday. Instead, Espaillat stayed in his Upper Manhattan district.
He and a handful of city and state officials held a “community swearing-in” at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Community Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan that drew about 150 people.
“Dissent is patriotic!” Espaillat said from the podium. “We’re engaging in our constitutional right not to be where we don’t want to be.” Later, Espaillat led the group in an “oath of resistance” patterned on the presidential oath of office.
Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), also did not attend. In total, six of New York City’s 11 representatives did not show up for the inaugural ceremony.
Some of the representatives said they found the new president’s rhetoric offensive, and others admitted they were wary of the president’s business entanglements. Espaillat and the others said they had also heard these concerns from their constituents.
President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric hit close to home for Espaillat. The representative is the first undocumented immigrant elected to Congress. But Congressman Espaillat said this personal history was not as the new president’s “arbitrary and heavy-handed rhetoric against many sectors of our society.”
“There is a disconnect between the vision that the president elect has and the vision that I have for this nation,” he said.
Congressman Nadler, on the other hand, said in a statement that he would not attend the ceremony because he objected to the opacity surrounding the president’s business and personal finances.
Russell Belfield, 47, one of Nadler’s constituents who live on the Upper West Side had similar reservations about the new administration and supported the congressman’s decision to not attend the inauguration ceremony.
“We have to send as many messages as we can,” he said.
Congresswoman Clarke’s ninth district covers the center of Brooklyn, including the Prospect Heights neighborhood where Ernesto Alston, 33, lives. Alston said he wished the congresswoman had not chosen to boycott the ceremony.
“Deal with that man! He’s there already,” Alston said, referring to President Trump.
Espaillat said most of his constituents were supportive of his refusal to attend the ceremony. “I’ve gotten messages from hundreds, thousands of constituents congratulating me for not attending,” said the congressman. “Some have criticized me for not attending, but the overwhelming majority support my decision.”
But he said he didn’t make the decision for his constituents. “It is my right to decide if I will be there or not,” he said.