NEW YORK (PIX11) — A video taken inside Trinity Lutheran Church in Sunset Park during an appearance by Gov. Kathy Hochul has garnered more than 1 million views as of Monday night.
The video shows parishioner Genesis Aquino being escorted out of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service by the NYPD on Sunday. Aquino was protesting Hochul’s speech to the congregation, which included several references to Hector LaSalle, the governor’s nominee for Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. LaSalle would be the first Latino leader of the state’s highest court. The church’s members are largely of Puerto Rican descent.
“[Hochul] spoke about Dr. King, but she also used that to compare Hector LaSalle to Martin Luther King, which I found distasteful,” said Aquino. “When she finished her speech, she started the photo-op. I got up. I did not scream at her. I did not use any foul language.”
Aquino said she prays the governor will listen to working-class New Yorkers and withdraw LaSalle’s nomination.
Basil Smikle, director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College, said the governor’s comparison may have been ill-timed and ill-placed.
“MLK Day speeches are supposed to be about unity, bringing people together,” said Smikle. “To be able to go to a church and push a controversial judicial nominee [is] probably not the place to do it.”
Overall, Smikle said Hochul continues to receive key support for her nomination.
“She still seems to be moving forward in a good direction, in the sense that she’s still getting support for the decision,” said Smikle.
In a statement to PIX11 News, a spokesperson for Hochul said:
“Yesterday morning, Governor Hochul delivered remarks at Trinity Lutheran Church and presented a proclamation in honor of MLK Day to Rev. Dr. Samuel Cruz. NYPD arrived at the church before Governor Hochul arrived, and Executive Chamber staff did not provide any instructions or recommendations to NYPD.”