Religions and Spirituality

Maplewood Resident One of Six Protesters to Plead ‘Not Guilty’ to Defiant Trespassing at Congressman’s Lance’s Office

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Rev. John Rogers, Kristen Peck and Rev. Ann Ralosky at Westfield Municipal Court Tuesday. Credits: Fred Smith
Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, speaks at a press conference outside of Westfield Municipal Court. Credits: Fred Smith
Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau speaks at the press conference after defendants entered their pleas. Credits: Fred Smith
Rev. Carmine Pernini leads the closing prayer. Credits: Fred Smith
Rev. John Rogers, 21-year-old Hillside 'dreamer' Sara Mora and Rev. Ann Ralosky. Credits: Fred Smith
The press conference outside of Westfield Municipal Court. Credits: Fred Smith

WESTFIELD, NJ — Six people who were arrested at a sit-in to support “dreamers” Feb. 6 at Congressman Leonard Lance’s Westfield office, including Kristin Peck of Maplewood, pleaded “not guilty” to defiant trespassing Tuesday morning at Westfield Municipal Court.

Peck, who is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, was arrested on Feb. 6 with  Rev. Ann Ralosky and Rev. John Rogers of First Congregational Church in Montclair, Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of B’nai Keshet in Montclair, Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz of B’nai Abraham in Livingston, and Make the Road New Jersey youth leader Nedia Morsy were arrested Feb. 6 after refusing to leave the office of Leonard Lance after the office closed, according to police.

(Morsy, who was not present due to a planned trip, had her plea entered for her by her attorney.)

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Lance was not at his office the afternoon of the protest. According to his spokesperson, John Byers, the congressman had offered to meet with the protesters at a mutually convenient time, but was ignored.

After their pleas were entered and court adjourned, Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based organization that advocates for immigrants, held a press conference.

“The question is do you stand with the 800,000 young people and their families who have been  living in this country and calling this country home?” Sara Cullinane, Esq., director of Make the Road New Jersey, said. “Do you stand with the 86 percent of Americans who support the Dream Act and want them to stay, or do you stand with Donald Trump and his racist immigration agenda that was designed to separate families and criminalize our communities?”

Rabbi Tepperman, a leader in Faith in New Jersey (a network of faith leaders and faith communities) expressed gratitude for those who came to support the six Tuesday.

“It says in Exodus: ‘There  shall be one law for the citizen among you and the stranger among you,’” Tepperman said. “It’s a really simple commandment that’s repeated 36 times that we need to protect the stranger, protect the non-citizen.”

Peck explained that her support for "dreamers" is because she feels "it's the highest moral calling in history at this point in time." Peck regularly visits detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Facility on Saturdays, where she said detainees have very little access to visitors.

"It's a crisis," said Peck. "These people are being sent back to the countries of their parents origin and they know nothing of those countries."

Rev. Ralosky said that it was the first time she has been arrested, but that the small amount of anxiety she feels is nothing compared to what “dreamers” deal with every day.

“I beg Congressman Lance and every other in position of power to please take a stand and please remember that we belong to each other and follow the ethos of our country,” Ralosky said.

“I’m proud to stand up for the ‘dreamers,’” Rabbi Dantowitz said. “This is what it means to be a faith leader— to stand up and take action.”

Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau was there, as well. Dansereau, who proclaimed Roselle a “sanctuary city,” said that her police force will not be deputized by ICE.

According to his spokesperson, Byers, Rep. Lance is a cosponsor of “clean” legislation concerning DACA recipients – H.R. 1468. He also supports bipartisan solutions to break the impasse over DACA, including the Problem Solvers’ proposal supported by a group of 48 lawmakers split evenly by party, according to Byers, and Lance and New Jersey Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer are both members of the Problem Solvers Caucus. 

Related article

Maplewood Resident One of Six Protesters Arrested at "Clean Dream" Sit-In at Congressman's Office

Editor's Note: Faith Joy Dantowitz is the daughter of TAPinto SOMA publisher Fred Smith.

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