White Plains Town Hall Turns Protest as Westchester Residents Are Turned Away Due to Overcrowding

Residents stand outside of White Plains Town Hall after being turned away from “Ask Astorino.” (Photo: Victoria Fennell)

A town hall held by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino turned into a protest as dozens of Westchester residents were turned away from entering White Plains City Hall because of overcrowding.

Hopeful residents came armed with questions, though they didn’t have the opportunity to ask as they stood on the steps outside the doors where the address was taking place.

Undoubtedly the town hall was busy, all the seats were occupied and many people stood around the room, but empty spaces could be viewed as people wondered why Astorino would pick such a small venue.

“I’m just hearing right now that it may not be over capacity, that some parts of the room are empty, so I don’t really know what’s going on in there but I am encouraged by this large crowd,” said Christine Groves.

The decision to hold the town hall in White Plains came as a surprise to many. Postcards and calls were made informing residents of “Ask Astorino” and a few felt the decision to hold the address in White Plains was intentional to keep the number of spectators low.

“[Astorino] let everyone know, he had calls all over Westchester County and he picks a place that has 50 seats, that’s outrageous. Tell me that he didn’t know he was avoiding questions by residents,” said White Plains resident Joel Laitman.

Murmurs in the crowd debated why such an event wouldn’t take place at the County Center—a larger and seemingly more “appropriate” setting according to one attendee who declined being interviewed.

Despite the air of disappointment over most of the crowd, some were more understanding of the situation.

“We got here later, I understand crowd control. You can’t let more people into a room than is healthy, so I mean I respect that,” said Caroline Thornlow.

With a recent gun show held at the County Center, gun control was a hot topic amongst the crowd.

“I just wish I could have a chance to address Mr. Astorino myself to talk to him about how the NRA has changed in my lifetime to become a representative of the gun manufactures and why I disagree with this allowing gun shows in Westchester,” said Steven Lamort.

Shouts for Astorino to come outside permeated the air along with protest chants such as “This is what democracy looks like” and “We pay your salary, you work for me!”

“I wanted to ask about gun control, why he allowed the County Center to have a gun presentation. After 9/11, after Sandy Hook, they cancelled the gun show at the county center but he let it go forward, he said that he was afraid of lawsuits,” Laitman said.

“I wanted to ask Astorino about whether he still supports the immigration ban after the ninth circuit and T4 or 5 district court ruled against it and the homeland security report came out that justify it and if he still stands behind the ban. I also wanted to ask him about what instruction is he giving county police about enforcing Trump’s immigration policies.”

Residents wanted a chance to voice their opinions and questions, but were left instead to talk amongst themselves.

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