Editorial: Protests on Long Island remain civil

Editorial: Protests on Long Island remain civil

Long Islanders marched down Smithtown’s Main Street June 7. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One thing we should all find comfort in is that people are not willing to let injustice go unanswered.

Anyone who has a shred of decency and an ounce of moral concern knows that what happened to Minneapolis man George Floyd was brutal, cruel and a significant abuse of power. Police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of a man for just under nine minutes, despite video evidence showing he did not present any danger to officers at the scene. Three other police officers looked on while Floyd called out for his mother, dying, without them raising a finger to help or make any point of protest. 

To some, this seems just a singular instance of cruelty, but for the massive numbers of protesters rallying and marching around the country, and now the world, it was just another instance of continued injustice on our minority communities. That is why the protests have been nearly unrelenting. That’s why the movement has spread to all parts of the country, including our backyard.

So far on Long Island, all protests have remained peaceful and have taken place at sites meant to facilitate large gatherings, all with a police presence. There have been some tense moments, and so far two people in Suffolk have been arrested relating to a protest in Shirley, but nowhere on Long Island have we seen the violence taking place in major cities. It’s important we recognize that while those protests have seen injury to both protesters and cops as well as property — though let’s remember that the life of any one individual vastly outweighs any and all damage to structures — there are many instances of police using extreme force on protesters, medics and journalists, as if proving the very point of the need to end such injustice.

But though those kinds of protests are not happening on Long Island, by reading some residents’ opinions on social media, you would think protesters are all walking down suburban streets ready to attack anyone who crosses their paths.

Activists across Long Island have been working very hard to maintain civility with these protests against injustice. That’s not to say events haven’t gotten heated, as in the case with protests in Merrick which faced plenty of racist sentiment and in Smithtown where one young man claims he and his friends were attacked. In Huntington, one restaurant owner came under fire for being caught making racist comments about “throwing watermelons at protesters” as they marched through downtown. He has since made a video apologizing for his remarks.

We all have to understand why these people rally and march. Long Island remains a very segregated place, as evidenced by a three-year Newsday report displaying racial bias on the part of many real estate agents and agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only laid bare the inadequacies, as minority communities have been disproportionately infected while their schools have struggled harder than most to teach their children when many don’t have access to online technology.

We commend the conscientious work of protest leaders, activists, local officials and police to facilitate these rallies and make sure they remain on point and peaceful, and also protect those who rally from being the target of violence as well.

To those residents who look on protesters with concern, often the best way to understand them is to simply speak with them. Start a dialogue. Understand where they’re coming from. Protests such as these aren’t designed to give certain populations benefit over others, but to reach an equality mandated under the words of the Constitution.

Just remember, if you yourself say you can separate good cops from bad cops, then you can separate peaceful protesters from rioters.

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