Latinos Support Embattled Long Island Official Mark Bonilla

Carrying posters with slogans like “Don’t resign” and “No justice, no peace,” more than 50 Latinos gathered to show their support for Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, who was arrested last month on charges of official misconduct and harassment, Noticia reported. The article was translated from Spanish.

More than 50 Latinos met Oct. 4 at the municipal parking lot of the Town of Hempstead to show their support for Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, who was arrested last month on charges of official misconduct, harassment and attempted robbery.

Carrying placards with Bonilla’s photo and shouting slogans like “Don’t resign” and “No justice, no peace,” the protesters showed their discontent with the way Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray handled Bonilla’s case. She called a press conference to demand his resignation as soon as the accusations against Bonilla were announced.

“Mark has the community’s support, and Ms. Kate Murray ought to think before she speaks,” said Henry Salgado, who worked with Bonilla on his re-election campaign last year. “It doesn’t surprise me that the accusations come from one of those workers — I forget his last name but his first is Alex — I know him, he’s a person who is vulgar, I personally have dealt with him, and he always, in his conversations, he’s always trying to talk about vulgar things,” Salgado said, referring to Alex Desidoro, the Hempstead Town employee who accused Bonilla of soliciting some compromising photographs of Salgado’s ex-girlfriend.  The girlfriend, who accused Bonilla of harassment, is another of his employees.  Two other Town employees also made similar accusations.

Max Rodríguez, who worked with Bonilla in the town government for more than nine years, said he felt “very sad” about the situation of his former boss and emphasized that no one can be condemned without a fair trial.  “It’s an injustice, very unjust of Ms. Kate Murray to act in such a manner. She spoke with a great deal of hatred; that was wrong — a person in her position ought to present herself better than she did,” he said. Rodríguez added that during his years working with Bonilla, the workplace atmosphere “was very friendly,” and that he never witnessed any bad behavior on Bonilla’s part.  “He was always very much a gentleman with the men and very much a gentleman with the ladies,” he said.

Political Ploy?

The protesters questioned the validity of the charges hanging over Bonilla and claim that all of this can be a matter of political tricks, fabrications meant to discredit the Clerk.  “It seems to me this is no way to treat an employee who was elected by the people; nobody gave him the position — we the voters put him in his job.  What’s the matter with Kate?  Is she afraid that he’ll run against her, and that’s why she wants to stomp on him like this?” asked Zahira Castillo, a Hempstead town resident.

“I think there’s a political objective behind the attempt to generate a negative perception of him.  [Bonilla] … has pulled in a lot of votes, he’s a good candidate [for Town Supervisor] whether or not he runs as an independent or on the party line,” claimed Jimmy Pérez for his part.  Pérez is on the Board of the Círculo de Hispanidad (Hispanic Club), and has been a friend of Bonilla’s for almost 25 years.

The demonstrators called on the Hispanic community of the area not to attend the Town of Hempstead’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on Oct. 12, where Latinos from the town were to be honored.  “They can’t honor Hispanics with one hand while they’re stabbing us in the back with the other,” said Castillo.  She also invited the demonstrators to protest again on that date, to show the Hispanic community’s discontent.

A similar call was made for Oct. 26, the date on which Bonilla — the only Hispanic elected official in the Town of Hempstead — is to appear in District Court located in Hempstead, for his first hearing, urging Latinos from the area to show their support for the clerk.  “On Oct. 26, we are going to show her [Murray] and the community of the Town of Hempstead that Mark Bonilla is innocent,” concluded Rodríguez.


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