A video that surfaced on YouTube more than a week ago shows two John Ciotti campaign volunteers hanging political signs on a fence next to his opponent’s law office and one making racially charged comments when questioned about it.
The video was taken on Oct. 15, and shows two volunteers approaching the Law Offices of Solages & Solages in Elmont — Carrié Solages’s campaign headquarters — and hanging Ciotti campaign signs on the property’s fence. The video also shows Solages’s sister, Mikaelle Solages, a campaign volunteer, asking the men whether they have permission from the property owner to post the signs, at which point one of the men, Vinny Prisco, says they do and refuses to take them down. When pressed for the name of the building’s owner, however, Prisco does not give it.
Prisco then sits on a bench near the signs and taunts Mikaelle, saying, “I’m going to wait here for you to take them down.” Later in the video, Prisco makes racist remarks directed toward Solages’s staff, volunteers and nearby residents, saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll put them on the back of the bus where they belong” and “Call animal control so we can arrest them.” Later, referring to Mikaelle, he says, “She’s a pig.”
Mikaelle, 26, said that before recording the video, she came into her brother’s campaign headquarters early in the day and noticed several Ciotti signs near the building. She began to take them down, she said, because she knew that whoever put them up did not have permission from the landlord. While she was taking them down, she explained, Prisco and the other Ciotti campaign volunteer began walking toward her. “They were very aggressive in the way they were walking,” she said. “It was an intimidating experience.” She grabbed her camera then, she said, because “I always have my camera with me.”
After the incident, Mikaelle said, she was told by the owner of CNM Hair Care, a nearby store, that the men threatened her, saying, “Put up the [Ciotti] sign, or else.” She added that Ciotti campaign workers have used similar tactics in the past. “[The video] just opens people’s eyes and makes them see that this is still going on,” she said. “And just because someone doesn’t have a camera doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen ... a visual picture captures so much more.”