Black Lives Matter Protesters Fill Smithtown’s Main Street

Black Lives Matter Protesters Fill Smithtown’s Main Street

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Long Islanders marching down Smithtown’s Main Street June 7 wanted residents to hear their cries — “Black Lives Matter.”

Protesters began to rally Sunday afternoon in front of Stop & Shop slightly east of the town’s iconic Whisper the Bull statue. The protest that was originally scheduled for 2 p.m. was switched to 4 p.m. the night before, and while some still came early, the crowd grew to more than 1,000 as the hour approached 4.

Protesters holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” “If You Don’t Care, You’re the Problem,” “The Names Change But the Color Doesn’t,” and more were mostly greeted with drivers honking support and even some passengers sticking their arms and heads out of car windows and sunroofs to show their own signs.

Around 5 p.m., Suffolk County Police Department officers began blocking off Main Street with vehicles. Officers both on foot and bicycles lead the protesters eastward from Stop & Shop along the town’s main corridor.

Along the way, just as they did in front of Stop & Shop, the protesters yelled “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” “Take Your Knee off My Neck,” and shouted the names of victims of police brutality, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

As they approached the train station and Katie’s bar where counter-protesters stood waving American flags, the BLM group stopped, and although words were exchanged, including obscenities, no violence ensued at the spot.

The BLM protesters then proceeded to Smithtown’s Town Hall where they stopped to chant for a few minutes. Officers then continued escorting them to the intersection of Main and Route 111, where some protesters took a knee. Then participants headed back to the Stop & Shop parking lot, and officers helped with traffic control as many left Smithtown at the same time.

Town of Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the rally was a peaceful one, and she complimented the SCPD for a wonderful job.

SCPD reported that during the protest one male was treated for minor injuries at the scene, but they did not disclose how the injuries occurred. Fourth Precinct detectives, 4th Squad and Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit are also investigating another incident involving alleged violence against a protester. A person calling himself Alejandro, who said he lives close to Smithtown, posted to Instagram, under the name ivpokko, that after the protest he was attacked by people antagonizing him and others at the march. Another rally is scheduled in response to the alleged incident in Smithtown June 9 at 6 p.m. by the train station. An attempt to reach Alejandro through social media for a comment was unsuccessful.

Before the protest, town representatives and the SCPD met with organizer Caitlyn Matos-Rodriquez to ensure that the event remained peaceful.

A week before the protest a flyer promoting the event circulated through social media. The flyer depicted marchers holding up their fists in the classic black power symbol, though it also depicted fires from Minneapolis and included the words “Bring your spirit in all its inferno.”

Many Smithtown residents and business owners feared that the protest would become violent, prompting a few proprietors to sit outside of their stores during the event, while other business owners handed out water to those who were participating.

In an interview with TBR News Media before the protest, Matos-Rodriguez said there had been much misinformation on social media about her and the planned protest. Because of the misinformation and rumors, she had received multiple violent threats to her and other protesters from residents.

“I have never condoned violence on this protest,” she said. “My goal of this protest is to bring our voices into segregated towns of Long Island. Our roots on Long Island rival next to Jim Crow [laws] of the south — you can see that by the geography of Long Island alone.”

Matos-Rodriguez added the point of the protest was to help open up more job opportunities, real estate opportunities and credit building opportunities for marginalized people of color.

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Updated June 8 at 4 p.m. to add additional information on alleged attack.