SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A vigil is set for after 5 p.m. in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs. Organizers say that concerned community members are holding a peaceful gathering to say that racism and attacks on democracy have no place in Saratoga County, New York, or in the U.S.
To participate, you have to sign up online. Organizers say to bring signs, bring friends, and wear a mask.
The “No Hate in Upstate” rally is meant to call on elected officials and candidates to stand against bigotry and disinformation campaigns. Organizers say they’re patriotic supporters of equal rights, justice, and democracy, and are using #BoycottHate on social media.
The people behind the demonstration describe themselves as an informal group of community organizers, faith leaders, and citizens united to stop hate in Upstate New York. They say they were pushed to action by Rep. Elise Stefanik’s association with Scott Presler.
According to vigil organizers, Stefanik and the Saratoga County Republican Party were going to hold a rally with Presler at Gavin Park in Wilton on Wednesday. There are no plans to hold such an event anymore—a member of Presler’s group reportedly is COVID-positive—but vigil organizers decided to proceed with their counter-event anyway.
Those behind the “No Hate in Upstate” vigil outlined several apparent problems with Presler’s political message. They say he is a conspiracy theorist, the extremist leader of an anti-Muslim group, and a key participant in the January 6 riot in Washington, D.C.
While Rep. Stefanik, who is currently expecting a child, promoted the event in a now-deleted tweet, her office says that she had no plans to attend. A spokesperson for Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, points out that the event was in fact planned by the Saratoga County Republican Party. The spokesperson had no comment about Presler or his political views.
Saratoga County Party Chair Carl Zeilman released a statement:
The local Democrat outrage to our grassroots voter registration drive is really about the National Democrat party imploding in front of our eyes and local Democrats looking for any other distraction to talk about other than their own failed policies that have brought our country into a crisis. They are threatened by Republicans’ historic support in Upstate and all of America. A staffer with RISE PAC tested positive for Covid and they will no longer be coming to Saratoga County. We will be meeting to door knock as was planned and continue to register Republicans at a 2-1 advantage in NY-21 over the Democrats.
Ron Kim is a Democratic mayoral candidate in Saratoga Springs. He said in a statement on Tuesday that he agrees with the vigil:
“There is no place in our community for the racist, fascist rhetoric of Scott Presler and his supporters. I am relieved that Presler canceled his appearance and I hope that the Saratoga County Republican Committee and their Republican candidate for mayor of Saratoga Springs Heidi West will speak out against people like Presler and his anti-muslim and anti-democracy message.”