Protesters in Commack May 1 made it clear that they wanted New York to get back to business.
Dozens lined up in front of the Macy’s parking lot at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Highway and Jericho Turnpike rallying for New York to open up its economy. For weeks, after an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), businesses deemed nonessential such as clothing stores, hair salons, barbershops, casinos and more were mandated to shut their doors to customers to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
The rally was organized through the Reopen NY Facebook page, and similar events have been held across the country in the last few weeks.
These protests have taken a politically partisan edge, with many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and waving “Trump 2020” signs in support of President Donald Trump (R).
Protesters held signs while others hung them on their cars. One read, “If it’s forced, are we free. Reopen NY Now.” Another sign said, “Small business is essential.” One car had an “Impeach dictator Cuomo” sign on its window, while a protester held a sign that read, “Stop the spread of tyranny.” One woman held two signs where one read, “All jobs are essential” and the other, “Hey Cuomo, domestic violence and poverty does equal death.”
Among those lining the street, some wore masks while others had no face covering. Children were among the protesters with their parents, many holding signs as well.
Setauket resident George Altemose attended the event with friends from the North Country Patriots, a conservative group that rallies on the northeast corner of Bennetts and North Country roads in Setauket every Saturday morning.
“I was there because of the ongoing COVID-19 problem, to show my support for President Trump and to express my disapproval of the misguided policies of Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and other politicians that are counterproductive in our battle to restore our normal lives,” Altemose said in an email after the rally.
He said he was pleased that he attended the May 1 rally.
“It was a most refreshing and uplifting experience to gather with hundreds of like-minded friends and neighbors in Commack, and to enjoy the enthusiastic responses from the passing motorists, the majority of whom took the time to wave, blow their horns and give us the “thumbs up” sign,” he said. “It looks like Nov. 3 will be a day to remember.”
For Altemose, the protests were about more than the closings. He said he has taken issue with a few of Cuomo’s mandates, including that nursing homes must admit those afflicted with the virus, “even though they are not hospitals and are not even close to being equipped to deal with a problem of this nature and magnitude.”
Altemose applauded the president’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“President Trump has provided outstanding leadership from the earliest possible day of this crisis, including the placement of responsibility where it belongs,” he said.
Lorraine Yovino, from Hauppauge, said in a phone interview after the protest she was delighted to see so many people show up for the rally.
“The whole atmosphere was so positive and so hopeful,” she said. “It was just a very happy, hopeful group. I was so pleased to see so many young people too.”
Yovino said she has attended rallies in the past including the March for Life protests in Washington, D.C. and others in Albany. She heard about the May 1 rally through friends.
She said the Macy’s parking lot turned out to be an ideal place for everyone to park and protest as the lot was empty, unlike the Target parking lot in the next shopping center which was full.
“It’s unfair that the Target salespeople are considered essential, while the Macy’s people are nonessential,” she said. “One group gets a salary to support their families, and the other group is impoverished.”
While Yovino said she understands that there was not much information known about the virus at first, she said she feels experimental treatments, such as the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine may be helpful to many. Though it has shown in cases to help treat the virus, it is still largely untested and has shown to cause heart issues in some who use it.
“It’s no longer justified to put American citizens into poverty and not let them go to work, not let them open their businesses, not let them support their families,” she said.
Yovino said she believes Trump has been doing a good job when it comes to dealing with COVID-19, and people need to ask more questions regarding the local elected officials’ response to the pandemic.
“My heart is going out to so many people who are unnecessarily having their freedom taken away,”
she said. “Their constitutional rights are being trampled on.”
Earlier this week, Cuomo said that businesses in the state will begin opening after the May 15 pause deadline. However, the first nonessential businesses to open will be in areas with lower density in upstate New York, with those in the city and Long Island to follow at a later date. Currently, Suffolk and Nassau counties have not met much of the criteria set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for any kind of reopening.