Hundreds of Long Islanders participate in Port Jefferson Station rally

Hundreds of Long Islanders participate in Port Jefferson Station rally

A year after millions of Americans participated in women’s marches across the U.S. following the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R), Long Islanders are still rallying to raise their voices — and signs — with the hope that elected officials in Washington, D.C., will hear their cries.

On Jan. 20, women, men and children gathered on the southeast corner of routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station for the 2018 Women’s March Rally Long Island: A Call to Reclaim Our Democracy. Despite a similar event taking place in New York City, hundreds from Suffolk and Nassau counties chose the Port Jeff Station event organized by grassroots activist groups Long Island Rising and the North Country Peace Group. In 2017, the Women’s March held at the same location drew 2,000 participants, according to a press release from the organizations. This year’s event once again gave residents an opportunity to voice their concerns about women’s rights, the environment, immigration and many more issues facing Americans.

Kathy Lahey, a founding member of Long Island Rising, said she felt hopeful about the future after seeing so many women in attendance, and she hopes elected officials will hear their concerns.

“Women are going to step up to the ballot box in November and [beyond] and create a country that works for all of us, not just a few.”

— Kathy Lahey

“To me it’s billionaires and the corporations and very few people that are getting their way right now, and people are suffering,” Lahey said. “Women are going to step up to the ballot box in November and [beyond] and create a country that works for all of us, not just a few.”

Susan Perretti, a member of the North Country Peace Group, was also optimistic after the rally.

“It is clear that status quo is not going to fix the mess America is in,” Perretti said. “And with the marches and rallies this past weekend, I feel confident that we are ready and willing to do what it takes to bring back the America of compassion for the poor and vulnerable, of respect for the dignity of all people, the America of inclusion not exclusion.”

Margaret Allen, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, attended the event with 25 congregants from her church.

“I was in New York City last year for the march, and this is nothing compared to that in terms of people, but in our relatively conservative area, this is a good turnout,” Allen said. “And, we are getting a lot of people honking.”

At times, the cheers of participants and honking from drivers passing by drowned out the voices of guest speakers such as former Suffolk County legislator and congressional hopeful Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Tracey Edwards, former Huntington councilwoman and Long Island regional director of the NAACP New York State Conference.

Leslie Luft, owner of Absolute Yoga Studio in Woodbury, said she traveled to the Suffolk County event with teachers and students from her school, choosing it over the New York City rally.

“We came out here to stand up for women’s rights,” said Elyce Neuhauser a teacher with Absolute Yoga Studio. “We came to stand up for human rights, to support each other, to create a peaceful community and country.”

Maryanne Vogel said she was glad the group made the trip from Nassau County to exercise their rights in a peaceful way.

“It’s just wonderful to see all the people out here — men, women and children,” Vogel said. “And, the honking of the horns, it just makes me feel good to be an American today, and an American woman.”

Dan Cignoli, of Coram, who attended last year’s event in Port Jeff Station, said he is politically active because he believes people need to do something about an administration he feels is at war with Americans. He found this year’s gathering invigorating.

“The Women’s March last year and this year has brought out the activists in everybody,” Cignoli said. “It’s wonderful to see.”

“The Women’s March last year and this year has brought out the activists in everybody.” It’s wonderful to see.”

— Dan Cignoli

Across Route 347 on the northeast corner, about a dozen people stood with American flags and pro-Trump signs. Howard Ross and Heather Martarello, members of the North Country Patriots who stand on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in East Setauket every Saturday morning to show support for Trump, said it was important for them to be there.

Ross, who served in Europe during the Vietnam War, remembered coming home in 1963 in his uniform and being spit on. He said for him it’s important for people to participate in events such as the rally, even if they are on the opposing side, and voice their opinions. Ross said he has two granddaughters and sees how much the country has negatively changed since he was a child in the 1950s.

“I get upset for them that’s why I feel we have to do more for this country,” Ross said.

Martarello said when she first arrived on Saturday the size of the crowd on the southeast corner seemed daunting to her but she said the rally was a peaceful one.

“They are entitled to express their opinions, and we want to express ours,” Martarello said. “Not only to get our voice out but to reach out to people going past, who when they see that huge crowd on the other side, and think, ‘Wow, there are so many people there, everybody thinks that way.’ But, then they see us, they say, ‘No, everybody doesn’t think that way. See, there are people who think like us.’ They realize a lot of people feel the way we do.”

Back on the southeast corner, Cindi DeSimone, of Farmingville, who attended the event with her 5-year-old twins Jake and Kate, said she attended similar rallies in the past, but this was the first time she brought her children. While Jake held a sign that read, “Boys will be boys” with “boys” crossed out and replaced with “good people,” Kate held a sign with the same sentiment about girls.

“I think that the times are scary, and I only hope that we have something to leave to our future generations,” DeSimone said. “I think everybody can do one thing. What I’m doing is trying to teach [my children] to be good stewards of the environment and be respectful of each other.”

This post was updated on Jan. 24 with the full story.

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