Sen. Avella has finally responded to our questions. See his answers -- as well as the letter he sent complaining to the parade organizers -- here.
On Tuesday, TheBlaze posted a video of NY State Senator Tony Avella walking off the stage at Sunday's Muslim Day Parade. Mr. Avella is also seen on camera telling reporter Tony Trento that he left the event before speaking because he was "offended" by what he heard.
Considering the senator made such a bold move, we wanted to get his explanation. Repeated efforts to get further comment from Senator Avella, however, have been met with resistance and no response from the politician.
We find this strange, especially after we heard some of Avella's statements made during a speech to the Muslim Society for Social Awareness (where he is featured prominently on the group's website). He specifically tells the people listening to him, "Nobody who calls my office ever gets the runaround."
We certainly are getting the runaround from Senator Avella and his staff:
- We never received a response to our questions about the appearance this past weekend. Not even a printed response.
- Senator Avella's press representative -- Javier -- was also "unavailable" each time we called -- and Javier never returned our messages.
- Thursday morning we called Avella's office to once again get clarification on a few items and ask a couple of questions. The State Senator's receptionist initially told us that the press rep "Javier" was in the office. However, once she heard we were from TheBlaze, we were told that he had not yet arrived.
And here are the simple questions we are wanting the Senator to answer:
- How many of the previous Muslim Day Parades have you attended? (This was the 27th annual parade.)
- Have you been a "VIP" or "Honorary Marshall" for this parade in any previous years?
- What is your official reaction to the speech that inspired you to get up and leave the stage?
- There was also a speaker there, an imam from Brooklyn, who demanded a UN law that would criminalize "defaming" Islam or the prophet Muhammed. Where do you stand on this proposal or any proposal that seems to conflict with our First Amendment?
- If you support the imam's idea on the speech limitations, what do you think about the painting known as "Piss Christ" - an "art" exhibit recently mounted at a local gallery?
The questions have also been emailed to the senator. We will post an update with his responses, if or when we get those answers.
In the meantime, the only response we've received is a canned reply to our email:
Thank you for your recent email. Due to the large volume of emails I
receive on a daily basis, it may be some time before you receive a formal
response. If your email is time sensitive, (such as an upcoming event)
please contact my District Office at 718-357-3094.
11th Senatorial District
Considering Mr. Avella's participation in the Muslim Day Parade, we decided to dig into any of his previous interactions with the Muslim community that could help answer our questions and shed more light (i.e. Has speech like this occurred in the past that he's objected to?).
In the clip attached here, you can watch the senator speaking to a gathering in his district. A very comfortable Avella makes some interesting statements to the group:
You're not treated fairly... Not by politicians... Not by the media...
I may not be on the federal level, but apparently I have some influence.
Based on the dates posted on the internet, we suspect this meeting happened sometime in late June of 2012. (We have attempted to confirm the exact date, but still cannot get a reply from Senator Avella's office.) According to the YouTube description of the video:
Senator Tony Avella visited Jam-e-Masjid Akhoon to attend the function organized by Muslim Society of Social Awareness (M.S.S.A.). The event was an excellent attempt to bridge the gap between the Muslim Community and the elected officials of New York. This endeavor is the result of Hazrat Mufti Muneer Ahmed Akhoon's immense wisdom and sincere concern for prosperity of Muslims living in North America.
It should be noted that Senator Avella does not seem to be spouting any radical ideas in this address. He is merely educating constituents on how to work within the system. Avella does state that he has been working to gain equal footing for Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus. TheBlaze has verified that Mr. Avella sponsored a bill to grant the same incorporation rights to all organized religions. He also spoke of a bill that would force state schools to recognize religious holidays for Muslim students as they do for Catholics and Jews. We were unable to find a record of that bill.
The full video listed as "Part One" of the video is seen here. Avella starts speaking around the 31 minute mark and continues to the end of the first clip. In this clip, he speaks about the unfair treatment of Muslims and bills he has introduced in the State Senate that would favor Muslims:
The second part of the video contains Avella's closing statement where he tells the audience:
"I'm here to help you with the system, I don't care if it's city, state, or federal, consider me your ally."
After Senator Avella wraps up his speech, Jason Hilliard speaks on behalf of Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Rep for the district). Watch the second part, which includes a question and answer period here:
So why is this interesting? Partly because one has to consider that Mr. Avella's past interactions and coziness with the Muslim community makes him taking a stand at the annual parade that much more incredible. It could also help explain the silence. But in the end, we're not sure and want to ask him those questions.
Questions we still can't get answered.