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Frustration mounts with protesters over Katko's objection to in-person town halls

Tom Magnarelli
Protesters in Syracuse.

Around 200 protesters demonstrated outside Rep. John Katko’s office in Syracuse Wednesday as well as a smaller number at Katko’s office in Auburn. Protesters are frustrated Katko will not hold a town hall to hear their concerns.

Unseasonably pleasant weather for February held for the march through downtown Syracuse with the sun shining and the temperature in the 60s.

Pressure has been mounting throughout upstate New York and the country on members of congress to hold in-person town halls. Katko participates in telephone town halls, which he said is one of the best ways to talk to his constituents.

Jamie Bodenlos of Baldwinsville with New Feminists for Justice helped organize Wednesday’s protest and said she’s been on one of Katko’s telephone town halls. She wanted to know what Katko is going to do about Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, being appointed to the National Security Council.

“I asked my question, some staff member came on, when I pressed *3, I asked it, and then I never got the opportunity to speak to Katko on the town hall phone call," Bodenlos said. "There were only four people that got to ask questions. And then at one point it was like, okay this is my last question. So I hung up. Then they said later I could have left a message at the end.”

Bodenlos said she’s been calling Katko’s offices everyday since the election.

“I’ve left so many messages, they know me by name, they don’t even need to ask me to spell my name anymore," Bodenlos said. "That’s how often I call. I have two small kids at home. This isn’t the world that I brought them into. I feel like I owe it to them to do everything I can now to change things for the better.”

Protesters in Syracuse marched from Katko's office to the Jerry's Rescue statue in Clinton Square. Vanessa Johnson reminded the crowd that Syracuse residents broke a fugitive slave out of jail in the 1800s because they did not believe in the Fugitive Slave Law.

"And I think we're seeing cities across America saying we are sanctuary cities," Johnson said. "No matter what the federal government does, we have a sovereignty within our own city to say we will not practice these bad and inhumane laws. We will not uphold them."

A spokesperson with Katko’s office said they have already met with many of the people at the march and are always willing to meet with constituents.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.