Activist charged with trespassing after protest at congressman’s office

In this photo taken by Dara Ellenbogen, Callie Jayne is seen standing, at left looking at a phone, in the parking lot of 721 Broadway. (Photo provided)

A local activist said last week that she has no idea why she was slapped with a trespassing summons following a March 5 protest in front of the Broadway offices of U.S. Rep. John Faso. But the building’s manager said she filed the complaint against Callie Jayne because the community organizer had ignored previous warnings to keep protests on the sidewalk and out of the parking lot at the 721 Media Center.

“This is a non-partisan building,” said 721 Media Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dara Ellenbogen. “We respect everyone’s right to protest, but not on private property.”

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The office and technology hub at 721 Broadway has been a focal point of protest for more than a year. Faso, a Republican, maintains a district office on the second floor of the building. Since January 2017, shortly after he took office, liberal activist groups have staged weekly “Faso Friday” demonstrations at the site. At first, protestors marched through the building to Faso’s office to deliver petitions and seek meetings with the congressman. In response to complaints from other tenants, Ellenbogen said, she developed a protocol to allow protestors to access Faso’s staff without disruption. Protestors, she said, were asked to remain on the sidewalk adjacent to the building’s parking lot. Demonstrators are allowed to cross the parking lot and enter the building’s lobby where they can deliver messages and fill out forms at a glassed-in “pop-up office” maintained by Faso staffers. Ellenbogen said that the system had worked well to balance protestors desire to reach out to their elected representative with the need to maintain a business environment inside the building.

“Pretty much everyone has followed the protocol as outlined,” said Ellenbogen. “Because it works out best for them and it works out best for people who work here.”

The trespassing complaint stemmed from a March 5 protest to mark the end of protections for immigrants shielded under the Obama-era “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. Jayne previously worked as a community organizer for Citizen Action and recently founded a new social justice group “Rise Up Kingston.” Jayne said she was present at the March 5 action, which was organized by a coalition of immigration rights groups. Jayne said she and others in the group complied when a trio of Kingston Police officers arrived and told them to leave the parking lot and protest on the sidewalk. Jayne said that cops remained for the duration of the protest — something, she said, that had not happened during the regular Faso Friday protests. Jayne said at one point she re-entered the parking lot to greet a friend and deliver a message to Faso’s office, she said, within the parameters of the building’s protest protocol. At no time, she said, did the police or anyone else object to her actions during the event.

“There’s nothing that is not OK about me walking in there,” said Jayne. “I wasn’t trespassing, nobody asked me to leave.”

Jayne said she had no inkling that she was in trouble until she received a summons in the mail ordering her to appear in court to answer a charge of trespassing, a violation. Jayne said that she did not know who had filed the complaint. Jayne added that she suspected the complainant was a Kingston police officer who saw her enter the vestibule and was unaware of the building’s policy regarding protesters. Jayne also noted a key difference between the Faso Friday protests and the immigration rally that she believes may have accounted for the police presence and the summons.

“It was no different from the Faso Fridays except that this was mostly black and brown folks,” said Jayne.

 

But Ellenbogen said that the trespass summons was based on protestors’ presence in the parking lot before police arrived to tell them to move. A series of photos shot from the entranceway to the media center show Jayne and others standing in the lot, in a group facing Broadway. Ellenbogen said that she filed the complaint against Jayne because she recognized her and because she was part of a group of demonstrators who had repeatedly violated the building’s protest protocol despite warnings from building staff and police.

“The same group has been warned a number of times, [Jayne] has been warned several times by myself,” said Ellenbogen. “A warning without follow-through is basically consent to continue the behavior.”

Jayne is due in Kingston City Court at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 20. The activist has organized a number of protests at the court to support victims of alleged police violence. Now, the local activist community is organizing around her case with a “pack the court” protest. Meanwhile, Citizen Action, Jayne’s former employer, has issued a strongly worded condemnation of the summons.

“These charges expose the racist nature of our justice system, which routinely finds new ways to criminalize the behavior of Black and Brown people,” wrote Citizen Action of New York organizing director Rosemary Rivera. “Callie Jayne is a dedicated leader and valued member of the Kingston community. We are appalled and call for these charges to be dropped immediately.”

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