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editorial

A car crushed by a tree in Miller place after strong winds by Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by Kyle Barr

We imagine that if you’re looking into your fridge and not finding any cold air coming out, that you’re smelling the milk starting to curdle and watching the meat in the freezer becoming wet and discolored, that you likely don’t want to hear anything else but the sound of heads rolling.

One has every right to be angry when the response to a storm like Isaias has been so clumsy. Reportedly, PSEG Long Island was ready for the storm but communications were not, and they continue to be confusing and out of touch. While the utility company puts out daily or even bi-daily releases about numbers of people who have gotten their power back online, the web and mobile app for reporting outages still show too many people lacking power. Either the reporting app is broken, or the lines of communication have broken down.

For a utility that promises so much of its reporting technology, residents would expect some timely communication, at the very least. Residents had a constant refrain over the past week that the timetables for when their street’s repairs would be done kept getting moved. A week after the storm, by Monday, 17,000 on Long Island still lacked power, according to the utility company, even though their own map showed at least 30,000 more potentially lacked any power out of the original 420,000.

PSEG has a lot to answer for, especially with the $40 million annual contract (plus incentives) that the Long Island Power Authority pays the utility company to handle Long Island’s electrical infrastructure.

Electeds at every level have come down on the utility company. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has requested an inquiry into PSEG’s handling of the storm. New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) has obliged and will conduct an investigation, according to a Newsday report that was confirmed by PSEG. Cuomo has also threatened to pull PSEG’s contract.

Should PSEG be responsible for people’s spoiled food and other financial hits due to loss of power? The many people who lost hundreds of dollars worth of food and medicine would certainly agree, especially those who can ill afford to lose an ounce of that during a pandemic, when many have lost jobs and unemployment benefits. The company should absolutely buckle up and support the people who need it most, especially since we still do not know just how much the 18 heads of PSEG make in salary of their multimillion dollar contract with LIPA.

But the speed and readiness that officials were ready to pounce on the utility company displays a different sort of callousness, especially in an election year. To say PSEG has become a punching bag is too quaint of a depiction for how much politicians want to make easy villains out of complicated issues. Some politicians have made going after PSEG and LIPA the cornerstone of their campaigns. Some have called for the heads of each organization to resign.

But tackling the challenges of supplying power to Long Island takes more than a readiness to plant a boot on the back of whatever company was taped with a “kick me” sign.

Isaias will not be the last major storm this season. If we’re unlucky, there could be even worse storms that hit our little sandbar called Long Island. That is where our heads should be, shoring up the infrastructure to ensure PSEG’s response does not repeat itself and getting behind initiatives that can prevent widespread damage, instead of having more people ready to clean up the aftermath.

New York is right to move toward a future where the majority of energy comes from renewable technologies. For the sake of the future of our planet, we have no choice. More than that, we need to think about our planet with the ferociousness we do when our lights stop working. Hurricanes are unrelenting. We must be as well.

METRO photo

Schools have been releasing their reopening plans — ranging from students attending full time to hybrid models — and many parents and teachers are buzzing with concerns.

We’re disappointed that some of our local districts did not reveal their reopening plans until the state deadline of July 31. We understand the massive undertaking it was to craft these plans and the number of people on committees involved to see it through, but many districts’ reopening data is long and convoluted. More effort can be made to present this reopening data in a digestible way.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has not yet created a blanket school reopening plan across the state. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for our school districts during a pandemic. Each one varies in size and number of students, teachers and space available. All this, of course, with an ax hanging over schools heads with state aid potentially being cut later this year.

The same is true for within a school district. Each student’s family is different. There are those who legitimately fear catching the coronavirus to the degree that it has kept them in lockdown even after some restrictions have been lifted. And while some have the luxury of having at least one parent being able to stay home if the local district offers a hybrid model, other families will be unable to provide the supervision their child needs.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that schools across the country reopen as long as they put safety first. Cuomo, after reviewing the districts’ reopening plans, will be making a final decision later this week.  The governor has said that as long as infection rate averages over a two-week period stay below 5 percent, schools will be able to reopen to some capacity. Suffolk County currently hovers at around 1 percent. There is no guarantee that figure won’t increase in the future, especially considering the current case with states like California, which was heading in the same promising direction as New York until cases spiked to a current total of more than 525,000.

Here is the thing we have to understand, none of us will be happy. Nobody will get everything they want from current plans. In a normal year, every kid would be learning in school, desks spaced only inches from each other and halls crowded with kids.

A parent who relies on schools to watch their children while a parent or guardian is at work may not be able to afford a different kind of day care. Families that rely on school reduced cost or free lunches won’t have that option without a kid in school. Hybrid models only help with a portion of those issues, but it’s better than nothing.

Some parents ask why the district can’t provide learning options for students who stay home 24/7 while the rest go into their full-time or hybrid schedules. Districts are already hurting financially due to the pandemic. Many are taking from their fund balances just to afford the additional staff and resources needed to have some students in the classroom. Asking them to put further resources into the extra time it takes to help students at home may not be feasible for so many districts.

We are now in a situation where each family needs to look at their school’s plan and then adjust it to their reality. Districts should do all they can to keep residents in the loop on a consistent basis. Parents, for their part, must acknowledge no plan will be perfect. It will take both parties and compromise to get the best outcome for students while keeping the virus under control.

METRO photo

Take the time for a second to think about all the things you know you can’t talk about in a public space.

Think about it hard. However much you like to talk to strangers, imagine what should happen if one dares to speak about the upcoming election. Envisage the shouting matches over recent protests. Have you feared what should happen if you kindly ask the person waiting in line at checkout to please put on a mask?

As reporters, we have seen just how reserved people can be on the hot-button topics of the day. Sending a reporter out to ask people their opinions on an issue such as the possibility of war with Iran back in January — remember when that was the big story of the day? —results in a paltry mix of opinions. Out of more than a dozen people, you may get one willing to speak their thoughts and offer their names on the record.

Yes, you’ll get more answers to the tame question of “what are you most excited to do this summer?” but so few people want their opinion shared. If you ask, the majority will say they do not want their thoughts laid bare for all to see on the internet and on social media.

Though we rarely share them, it seems the antipathy and staunchness of those same opinions is only hardening as time goes.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center in 2017 show the mean identity for being either strictly Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, has only increased over the past two decades. The partisan gap on issues such as immigration started with a percentage gap of little more than 10 percent has become 40. Worries about climate change have only become starker on the political line.

The thing is, most people know and would acknowledge said political polarization. Students at the top of their class at recent social distancing graduations like one in Miller Place spoke about that same political gulf. Indeed, everybody seems to confirm it, but at the same time, nobody seems to work to bridge those same divides.

People have made apolitical things political. Climate change is not a political issue. The debate has long centered on whether climate change is really happening. It is happening, it is being caused by humanity, and the debate should not center on the “is it” but more on the “what we need to do about it.” We on Long Island have to be acutely aware of it, because rising sea levels will impact us immensely.

This pandemic has also made such a divide even starker. Asking to wear masks, in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, has been transformed into an assault on personal freedoms.

This thought isn’t helped with the constant barrage of false info and conspiracy theories spread through social media, especially about the virus. Last week’s article about local social media pages cited a Pew Research Center report that a frightening number of individuals believe unproven conspiracy theories about the ongoing pandemic.

Indeed, with national politics being what they are, it’s often better to think about local issues. We at TBR News Media do our best to report on issues that impact us right here at home, issues of beach erosion, flooding, the state of our small businesses. Instead of basing the conversation on grander topics of political infighting, focus on what works or doesn’t work. These conversations can (though not always) be much calmer and sincere than anything concerning who’s behind will occupy the White House throne come Nov. 3.

Leave animosity at the door, and concern yourself with you, your neighbors and your community. That is where the best of us can be found.

METRO photo

School districts and their students have taken the lead when it comes to a new normal, and perhaps it’s incumbent upon us to follow their lead in our regular lives.

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, it became apparent to high schools and colleges that the end of the year wasn’t going to be the same for graduates. While institutes of higher learning accepted the fact that an in-person commencement was not going to be possible at the end of May, many school districts held on to the hope that maybe it would happen at the end of June for their students.

But then the pandemic wouldn’t let go.

So high school administrators stepped up to the plate to create alternative events to celebrate the Class of 2020. There were car parades and virtual ceremonies, and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he would allow 150 people at commencements starting June 26, expectations increased.

Many schools had hoped that if they waited until mid or late July, commencement would resemble what it did in the past with all the graduates in attendance with their family members, just socially distanced and with attendees wearing masks.

However, it wasn’t to be. The guideline for the maximum number for graduations hasn’t increased. Schools quickly made the decision to stick with in-person graduation but split the Class of 2020 into several sections and held the events over the course of multiple days, allowing graduates to bring two guests each. Many schools had sets of three seats spaced out across football fields and lawns, and when it came time for the teens to get their diplomas, they would walk the stage 6-feet apart.

Students may not have been able to celebrate the day with all of their friends, families may not have been able to interact as usual — sharing memories or flashing a smile to each other — and the energy may have been more subdued, but at these events there was at least some sense of normalcy.

School administrators, valedictorians, salutatorians and class presidents presented their speeches at each event. There were still the laughs, the tears and the pride. There were hellos and even extremely quick photo ops, before attendees were ushered off the field to disinfect the chairs before the next group arrived.

The graduation ceremonies being held across the state are just a small step toward normalcy — however, they are significant. Just like the former high school students are taking baby steps toward their futures, the commencements show that we don’t have to live in fear in our homes if we put some thought in our moves like school districts have and proceed with caution.

As our children fearlessly move toward their futures — a new normal — let’s follow their lead. Just like theirs, our future may not look the same. We now need to reimagine social events and interactions with our family and friends, just like districts did across the state, but they have shown it can be done.

Look how considerate and thoughtful our school districts and students have been and compare that to the mass number of people who refuse to socially distance and do the simple favor of wearing masks when out on the town. We can remain disappointed that our lives have continued to be hampered by rules, but the other option is shown in the many other states that are seeing a staggering rise of cases.

We have learned a lot these past few months, and we still have more to comprehend, but we can take steps toward the future and a new normal. One day we’ll look back and realize how much we have learned and grown with safety at the forefront.

Photo by Kyle Barr

America is a country that lives in the shallow ditch between fiction and reality. We live in a society that demands civility of all people, from those protesting injustice — even when that protest boils over into violence — to those screaming “white power” from the top of their lungs.

It was something well noted by Martin Luther King Jr., who famously said in one of his letters from Birmingham jail that he found the white moderate was “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom,” and that “the white moderate is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

In that small gutter we dug ourselves and have lain in, we constantly refuse to acknowledge extremism even when it’s present in our own backyards, even amongst the people we greatly respect and admire for the work they have done to benefit local residents.

This past weekend, folks held a car show in Port Jefferson benefiting one of the local VFW posts, one whose funds, like many, were hit hard due to the pandemic. It was also held to promote services supporting veterans post traumatic stress disorder.

This is as bipartisan as one can get. Most were maintaining some measure of social distancing. Most were wearing face coverings.

Though on one car, bedecked with banners supporting President Donald Trump (R) as well as some emblazoned with the Marines’ emblem, was a sign that read “Antifa Hunting Permit: Open Season All 58 Gender Identities.”

It’s not a new sign, indeed it’s available freely on the internet. It’s such a small example, but it represents an underbelly of violent intent that permeates our suburban community.

“Antifa,” as it’s known, is short for “anti-fascists.” They are an ill-defined, loosely organized set of groups that usually confront right-wing or conservative groups in public, often with violence. The president has called for them to be labeled a terrorist group. Though their actions have sometimes warranted condemnation, organizations like the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism say the number of anti-fascists can hardly compare to the number of similarly or even more extremely violent racist or white nationalist groups.

Beyond that is this mention of “All 58 Gender Identities.” For one, there are not 58 gender identities, there is no set number of defined identities among groups that use an identity beyond male or female.

Worse, it is an active call for violence against a group, namely people who are transgender, who suffer an extreme amount of violence for their population size. It’s an attempt to conflate a fractured collective spread across the United States with a vulnerable group of people. According to the Human Rights Campaign, advocates tracked at least 27 deaths of transgender or otherwise non-gender conforming people in the U.S. just in 2019. They were targeted and murdered for no other reason than that they were transgendered. Among those deaths, the majority were of black transgender women.

It’s such a small thing, just a single sign on a car in the center of more than a dozen. Though one only has to step foot on social media to witness the animosity shown toward people protesting on Long Island, despite how in over 100 protests, with more occurring every day of the week, only a handful were arrested, mostly for nonviolent offenses.

One can denounce the violence on the side of Antifa and denounce the violence of white nationalist groups and the wanton harm caused to vulnerable people. One can be both for police and for police reform. One can love one’s country and still think change is needed.

There’s no reason to have voices and mentalities strangled by the “either/or” divide that seems mandated in these times.

Photo by David Ackerman

When The New York Times recently published an editorial titled “Don’t Cancel That Newspaper Subscription,” it caught our attention. Not just because of the subject matter — anything about the general decline of local newspapers is, of course, something we’re very concerned about — but because of the struggles each reporter and editor faces while trying to do their jobs.

The beginning of the editorial tells the story of John Seigenthaler, initially a young reporter with The Tennessean who saved the life of a man he was interviewing back in the 1950s. Seigenthaler went on to become editor and then publisher for the local paper and was at the forefront of civil rights coverage in the heart of the segregated South. However, the piece is not a love letter to the local papers of the 20th century; it’s a cry for help for the publications of today.

The editorial touches on how newspapers and their newsrooms have become smaller over time, even before the coronavirus pandemic diminished the amount of advertising, the main source of revenue papers rely on. Over the years, local publications have been suffering as more and more readers take to the internet to get their daily or weekly dose of news. It also doesn’t help that the false moniker of “fake news” is thrown around by too many without a care for the consequences such an impetuous statement can create.

According to the editorial, newsrooms across the country lost half their journalists between 2008-19. Citing a recent Business Insider article, the writer Margaret Renkl, said “a staggering” 7,800 journalists lost their jobs in 2019.

The writer goes on to tell the story of how The Tennessean recently ran an ad that many found appalling and racist, but she urged people not to cancel their subscriptions. She not only cited how the publisher quickly tried to rectify the situation by pulling it from future editions and firing the sales manager that approved it, but she pointed out many other things, too. Despite the extreme lack of judgment in placing the ad, even with a shortage of journalists due to cutbacks over the years, the paper still covers and publishes a variety of topics that show it is still doing everything in its power to maintain a balanced and reputable publication.

We get this. There have been times when some may not have been pleased with an article, letter or editorial in our newspapers. That is perfectly fine, and we invite reasoned criticism from all in our letters to the editor. But as Renkl wrote in her editorial, “As the ‘first rough draft of history’ journalism will always be prone to mistakes.” We, perhaps beyond any other industry, not only invite justified review of our papers, but we also actively try to improve, working many, many hours to try to get the story of local happenings. We cannot be everywhere and cover everything, but we do our best.

Canceling your subscription to a newspaper only hastens the death of journalism. We’ve written it before on this page, and we’ll put it out there again: If newspapers and journalists didn’t exist, who would tell you what leaders are up to? Who would be there to challenge their responses when something doesn’t sound quite right? And this is even more important with our local leaders, especially as more news networks focus on the national side of our society.

Without local papers, where would readers go to find out what fun activities are going on right in their own town? Who would celebrate the academic and athletic achievements of our local students?

Unfortunately, the days of local newsrooms brimming over with editors and reporters, who could run out and cover every incident in town, may be over, but pulling out a newspaper from the mailbox or picking one up on the newsstand doesn’t need to end.

Let’s work together to keep local journalism alive. With each subscription, just like with each ad, we are empowered to continue and enabled to cover more of our communities’ activities for the benefit of all.

METRO photo

It was the winter of 2007 to 2008 when the financial crisis hit. Years of excessive risky loans by banks (and others) and a downturn in the subprime lending market resulted in several years of economic hurt. Many lost their jobs and homes. Some say we truly have never recovered.

For the young people graduating high school or college just over a decade ago, it was walking blind toward a cliff’s edge. They went through school with certain expectations, but the jobs once promised to be there upon graduation were gone. In the following years, young people took what was available, much of the time it was low-paying service industry jobs without a real hope of promotion. A new kind of employment, something people started to call the “gig economy,” was born. People worked freelance without a chance for receiving health insurance through an employer or have any kind of job security.

Now we face a new impending time of economic peril, and there are many thousands of young people graduating this year from high school or college on Long Island.

We as parents and residents need to ask ourselves, “What will we do for them to make sure they can make it out there in a time of wild unpredictability and economic inhospitability?”

Research indicates that people who graduate in a time of economic tension can remain in worse straits than their peers for over a decade. A 2019 study in the Journal of Labor Economics showed the pay and employment rate for people who graduated during the Great Recession have remained relatively low, even after several years. Millennials, the youngest of whom are 24 while the oldest are nearing 40, hold just 3 percent of America’s wealth compared to 21 percent that the baby boomer generation held at around the same age, according to a 2019 U.S. Federal Reserve report. 

This is a pivotal time for young people entering the job market, as not only is this when they can start to accrue wealth and build up savings, but it’s a means to start grinding away at what can be tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. 

Without early starts to their careers, young people will end up running in place, making enough to live but not enough to build their credit or finances (though on Long Island it’s rare they will be able to afford the rent to even the smallest apartment). 

It’s time as a nation we seriously have to consider governmental action to save the future for our graduates. Yes, that includes student loan forgiveness programs, as there is potentially no worse idea than saddling a young person — who likely never even signed a check before — with thousands upon thousands in debt to either private firms or the U.S. government. Even more people will be looking to college as a way to build their job prospects, so it’s time we look at additional subsidies for college. We should also start thinking of handing out incentives to companies willing to hire people fresh out of school.

An unregulated financial sector helped cause the 2008 economic collapse. Now with the pandemic, more research has shown if the government, both state and federal, had responded to the crisis with lockdowns sooner, we could have saved more lives and potentially restarted our economy faster and smoother. 

What’s done is done, but the fact is young people had no part in causing this economic downturn. Let’s have us as parents and neighbors think about how we can still help young people get ahead in life, for the sake of their entire generation.

METRO photo

With Long Island now entering Phase 3 of reopening, masks are as important as ever. More people out and about necessarily means an increase in exposure to others and potentially COVID-19. Though what has confounded us is the seeming semipolitical divide regarding masks made to protect each other from the coronavirus. Somehow whether to wear one has become a political issue instead of a health matter.

We get it. Facial coverings can be uncomfortable at times, but the discomfort is worth it for the greater good. Think about it. Women through the centuries have worn many uncomfortable undergarments for the sake of looking good, and men’s ties can be a nuisance but many wear them because of dress codes at work or to impress at special events. Just think, once upon a time, women risked fainting when their corsets were too tight simply because they wanted their waists to look smaller. A mask is much less of a fashion statement, but it has proven to significantly reduce the chances of catching the virus by over 90 percent if two individuals in close proximity are wearing face coverings. 

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, information was confusing. All medical researchers could go on were similar viruses and what was going on in other countries. As they watched people snatch up N95 masks that were vital for health care and other frontline workers, it’s understandable that some scientists suggested members of the general population refrain from buying or wearing them.

Then it was discovered that if one wears a facial covering of any type, when sneezing or coughing, the distance droplets travel was reduced drastically. While the mask itself may not protect the wearer itself, it does protect others. Meaning if the majority of people wear them, community protection is increased.

We say majority because even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order says children under 2 and those with certain medical problems are exempt from wearing them.

When mandatory shutdowns first began, there were concerns that the U.S. economy would be destroyed, and small businesses would take the biggest hit. As we go back to dining and shopping, wearing a mask to protect business owners and their employees, as well as fellow customers, is vital in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases down and keeping local commerce running smoothly.

Let’s also remember to be mindful in restaurants as they begin to reopen, especially since diners can’t wear masks while eating and drinking. We can take extra care including washing our hands to help protect workers, not lingering at tables and perhaps even tipping extra since employees might be working outside in the heat with masks on, not to mention many have been out of work for months.

We are heading into summer, and it seems like all of New York wants to pretend the pandemic was nothing more than a bad dream. We have to remember that cases have increased drastically in just the past few days. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows there were more than 30,000 new cases in the South, West and Midwest just this past weekend. Health officials now seriously have to consider for and prepare for a potential second wave in the fall.

Let’s take the politics out of wearing a face covering. If people can wear something uncomfortable because they feel they look better or to comply with a dress code, then why not a mask. It may not make us look more attractive, but it helps us to keep our neighbors healthy. To us, that takes priority.

METRO photo

TBR News Media editorial staff share memories of their dads and other special people for Father’s Day.

Rita Egan — Editor

As someone whose parents separated when she was 9 years old and moved in with her grandparents, I’m an example of a village raising a child. From an early age, I realized that relatives and even friends’ parents can play a role in a young person’s life.

I was fortunate that my new friends and their parents made my transition to life in Smithtown an easier one. There were the Irvolinos, the D’Agostinos, Mrs. Naseem, and later in high school, the Juans, the DeNobregas and the Castros who always made me feel welcome in their homes, even at family gatherings. I frequently was in the Irvolinos’ pool and on their boat. The D’Agostinos introduced me to the beauty of Head of the River and would take me with the family to the Jersey Shore. And of course, there were the rides many parents gave me when it was too dark for my grandfather to drive.

One day on Fire Island, my friend Nancy and I were knocked down by a huge wave. One second I’m hitting my head against something hard, and the next I was grabbed out of the water by Mr. Irvolino. He had me in his right hand and Nancy in his left. I will be forever grateful for my village. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, too.

Kyle Barr — Editor

When my parents call me on the weekend, we can go through the platitudes of normal life: How is your job, how’s Long Island, how’s your brother?

Dad, you can make comments about how I continue to leave my room a FEMA-designated disaster area. You can talk about my habits of leaving my clothing in the laundry bin after washing them instead of putting it in drawers.

Then we can get into the heavier stuff of national politics and local happenings. We can talk about the issues, and I can get angry and you can deflect. And I can’t seem to stop and ask you how you’re really doing.

You moved away, and I hope you’re doing OK. I hope the pandemic and quarantine has not made you so reclusive you can’t talk to anybody except mom’s parents. I hope the days you spend in retirement allow you to explore things you haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to.

I can ask only so much of you. I can ask you to be patient until I find time to see you. Until then, I can enjoy those platitudes and our conversations.

 David Luces — Reporter

When it comes to Father’s Day, I immediately think of my uncle and my late grandpa, two men I’ve been lucky to have in my life. As a young kid, they were a constant fixture, always there to lend me encouragement and support. Whether it was a Little League baseball game or a band recital, they were there. Sometimes, it would just be us slouched on the couch spending hours watching a Knicks game or WWE professional wrestling. My younger self didn’t know any better, but now looking back I think the one thing I take away from those experiences is to be present and to enjoy those moments with the people you love.

My grandpa passed away before he could see me graduate high school and college, though I know he would be proud of my accomplishments and the person I’ve become. My uncle and family have played a big part in that.

So when I think of this Father’s Day, I think of spending time with my uncle, maybe having a couple of beers and reminiscing of past times with my grandpa. But most importantly, we’ll be with family to make new memories together.

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.