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Friedrich supporters protest Weprin mailing

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Dozens of supporters of state Assembly candidate Bob Friedrich rallied Sunday afternoon in Little Neck to protest what they describe as hateful campaign literature opponent David Weprin sent out last week condemning Friedrich’s opposition to hate crime legislation as “extremist” and featuring a swastika.

The mailings, which went out to residents in the 24th Assembly District in northeastern Queens, came near the tail end of the campaign for Tuesday’s special election between Friedrich, a registered Democrat running on the Republican and Conservative lines, and former City Councilman David Weprin, a Democrat.

“Equating me with Nazi dogma is offensive to people of all religions,” he told the crowd, who waved anti-Weprin signs and chanted slogans in front of the Samuel Field YM/YWHA. “Supporting hate crime laws and then using the same tactics those laws were supposed to suppress is extremism.”

But Weprin’s campaign manager, Corey Bearak, continued to defend the mailing, which he acknowledges having sent, with a solo press conference across the street immediately after the rally broke up.

“It is not offensive to make sure people know just how extreme Republican-Conservative Bob Friedrich is,” he said.

Friedrich’s supporters maintained that the mailing, which included a spray-painted swastika superimposed over a photo of police at a crime scene, was out of line. Both candidates are Jewish.

Marc Denker did not even know there was an upcoming special election when he heard about the Weprin mailing from a fellow member of the Yankel Rosenbaum Chabad Jewish Community Center in Bayside last week. He now plans to vote for Friedrich.

“This attempt to create a subliminal advertisement that links Mr. Friedrich to the Nazis is below David Weprin. Someone in his office okayed this and it’s beyond reprehensi­ble,” he said. “This awakened me to the fact that there was a special election in the first place.”

The event also attracted area politicians, including City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who spoke out against the mailing.

“To even think of equating World War II and the Holocaust with an Assembly race in the state and city of New York is absurd,” Halloran said. “This is nothing. This is meaningless. This is a distraction from the issues. We need a man like Bob Friedrich out there for the people.”

Bearak stood his ground in the face of the horde of protestors, calmly stating the case for defending the mailing.

“Bob Friedrich must answer to our community why he won’t support hate crimes legislation,” he said. “As a Jewish community leader who speaks out against anti-Semitism and other hate, it’s just outrageous that an extremist like Friedrich, who is also anti-gun control and against Roe v. Wade, would run for office in our community.”

Correction: This story has been changed since publication to correct an error. The Friedrich rally was held in front of the Samuel Field YM/YWHA.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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