Tags Posts tagged with "Rally"

Rally

Long Islanders gathered at Babylon Town Hall, above, to show support for Ukrainians. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

Ukrainian and Russian émigrés, Ukrainian-Americans, local elected officials and Long Islanders of various political stripes demonstrated their support for the defense of Ukrainian sovereignty and against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war initiated in the wee hours of Feb. 24 against Ukraine. 

Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, below right, was on hand for the rally. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

While some people rally together in their support for Ukraine, others find their way to church sanctuaries to offer prayers for the safety of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens, who are also taking up arms in defense of their homeland.

Anna Konny, from Vinnytsia, Ukraine, a dental hygienist and U. S. citizen, who lives in Woodmere, attended a rally in Lindenhurst at Babylon Town Hall with her aunt, Nataliya Soliternik, who lives now in Hewlett. 

Konny, draped in the Ukrainian flag, was a vocal advocate for those defending Vinnytsia, a city in west-central Ukraine. She has been able to stay in touch with family and friends who are still in Ukraine by using free calling cards provided by Verizon, T-Mobile and other major communication carriers. 

The dental hygienist showed photos of families using subway stations and basements of municipal buildings as bomb shelters. She claimed these shelters are also being used at night by saboteurs and Russian infiltrators as they hide among the patriots they seek to destroy. By day, these infiltrators use luminous paint to paint the roofs of buildings, barricades and other locations to be targeted during nighttime bombings and artillery shelling. 

Konny advocates for weapons and ammunition to be sent to those fighting from World War I-style trenches surrounding the cities and towns. Someone in the crowd asked if she feared reprisals. Konny’s answer was a firm, “No. If these photos get back to Ukraine, I want my friends and family to know that I stand with them.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), presiding officer of the Legislature, saw Konny and came over to hear her pleas for aid, both military and medical first aid materials. After speaking with Konny, McCaffrey addressed the crowd to resounding applause. “It is appalling what Vladimir Putin is doing, how he is attacking a sovereign nation like Ukraine,” he said. “It makes us wonder who is next. The Ukrainian people have done nothing to incur the wrath of Vladimir Putin. All of us are encouraged by the fight of the Ukrainian people, who are standing against this aggression. I believe the U.S. should do more to stand up for the Ukrainian people.”

Janet Byler, from Huntington, has children serving in the U. S. Army based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She felt compelled to attend the rally to support those serving with NATO forces in Europe. Mark Czachor, of West Babylon, said, “Every American should be supporting Ukraine’s fight. As long as we don’t give up, Putin can’t win.”

On Friday, Feb. 25, the Rev. Bohdan Hedz of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Riverhead opened the sanctuary to a resident of Texas, who was born and raised in the Riverhead area. He had returned recently to care for his very elderly parents. He had missed the service which had been celebrated earlier that day but was welcomed by Bohdan to pray in the quiet and intimate sanctuary. Unafraid of reprisals, the gentleman, who wished anonymity for personal privacy reasons, spoke of marrying his Ukrainian wife in Kyiv.

“My wife would leave today to take up arms,” he said. “The world is called to speak and to act. Ukraine will fight!”

During this conversation, a woman from the congregation of St. John the Baptist R.C. Church in Wading River came in with an offering of a bouquet of red roses and a prayer. It was her way of giving support to the local Ukrainian community.

Hedz and his congregation have been raising funds and material support for Ukrainian defense since the Russian invasion of the country in 2014 that resulted in the annexation of Crimea. Hedz expressed the belief that “Putin will not stop at Ukraine.”

With this greater invasion into the whole of Ukraine, Hedz said the defenders of Ukraine need warm winter clothing, personal hygiene medications such as pain relievers, cold and flu treatments, and first aid supplies for treating wounds.

Donations can be dropped off any time at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church located at 820 Pond View Road, Riverhead. If the sanctuary doors are locked, one may call the reverend at 631-727-2766.

Photo by Colleen Kelly

By Jennifer Corr 

Chants like “My body, my choice” echoed through big cities like Washington, D.C., and Manhattan Saturday as part of the Rally for Abortion Justice, and that same passion made it to what is known as Resistance Corner at the junction of Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. 

The national Rally for Abortion Justice movement, according to the Women’s March Network, comes after comes after the Supreme Court’s rejection of an emergency request to block the Texas Heartbeat Act. 

Coming into effect Sept. 1, the bill bans abortion at the point of the “first detectable heartbeat,” which could occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy — a point that many are just finding out they’re pregnant. At least 13 other states failed to attempt enacting similar bans after being blocked by courts. 

“I believe in a women’s right to choose,” said protester Bryan Campbell, who was pushing a stroller occupied by his infant. “I think it’s ridiculous what’s going on in Texas and I’m here to support the women in my life: my partner, my friends, my daughter. This is for their future and for everyone’s future.” 

Campbell was one of hundreds of men, women and children who gathered on the busy corner, holding signs in protest of such laws. Some even took to dressing up as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a best-selling novel and TV series that depicts a totalitarian society that treats women as property. 

Donna Reggio was among those dressed in red robes and white bonnet. 

“It’s a dystopian fantasy that’s no longer a fantasy,” she said. “We’re going backward with women’s rights and we’re here to show that we don’t want to go there anymore.” 

Before Roe v. Wade — a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that protected a women’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction — only more affluent women had access to safe and legal abortions. However, it is estimated that between the 1950s and ’60s, the number of illegal abortions, either self-induced or done through often dangerous or even deadly procedures, ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million a year.

Rally organizer Shoshana Hershkowitz, of Long Island Social Justice Action Network and Suffolk Progressives, was on Resistance Corner Saturday to make sure her daughter did not grow up with fewer rights than she was able to enjoy throughout her lifetime. 

“Our own congressman [Lee Zeldin (R-NY1)] tried to overturn Roe in the past year,” she said. “We can’t just think of this as a somewhere-else situation. It was happening right here.” 

That’s why the LISJAN and Suffolk Progressives joined with grassroot organizations like Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island Activists, New HOUR for Women & Children – LI, Show Up Long Island, NY02 Indivisible, Planned Parenthood, among others, to prevent impediments in a woman’s reproductive rights from happening anywhere — including here in New York. 

“We just put out the word to the different Facebook groups and [other various groups] who are invested in keeping our rights and getting women in office,” said Kat Lahey of Long Island Rising, adding that several speakers including Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were also in attendance. “You can see that there’s a high demand to keep women’s reproductive rights.” 

But not all were in support of the movement. Along with some disapproving remarks made by drivers who were passing by, one woman stood on the other side of the highway holding a sign, with photos of babies, that read “Please love me, I love you.” 

The woman would not disclose her name, however she did share that she goes to her local Planned Parenthood every Saturday morning to pray. She said she was especially upset about New York State’s allowance of late-term abortions. 

Yet the 2019 law, passed on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, only allows late-term abortions when the mother’s health is in danger. 

When asked about the counterprotester, Hershkowitz said that she was more than welcome to cross the road and speak with herself and other organizers. “But I’m not changing my mind,” she said. 

It was not the first time that groups like New HOUR and LISJAN gathered on the corner, as they also showed up for issues ranging from gun safety to the Trump-era ban on refugees from majority-Muslim countries. 

“Our community has come quite accustomed to gathering in this space and standing up for what we believe in,” Hershkowitz said. “So really, it’s like we almost have muscle memory because of having to gather here for so many years.”

On a spring-like Saturday afternoon, local residents from all walks of life took time out of their day to rally in support of the Asian community.

The south side of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge on Saturday, March 27, was filled with hundreds decrying recent hate crimes against Asians in the country. Many held signs featuring messages such as “Stop Hate Spread Love,” “End Racist Violence,” “Make Racism Wrong Again,” “Hate Is A Virus, Love Is The Vaccine” and more.

The rally was organized by Suffolk County Human Services. The event featured speeches from representatives of civil rights organizations and elected officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Bellone said he was glad it was a sunny and warm day, but it would be a beautiful one even if it was raining.

“It’s a beautiful day because we are all gathered together as one, as Americans from all backgrounds, to stand up and speak together in one voice to say that hatred and intolerance is unacceptable,” the county executive said. “We will not accept it here in Suffolk County. We will not accept it anywhere in this country.”

Bellone said anyone who attempts a hate crime in the county would be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“We are gathered here today, one another in solidarity, to fight against these vicious brutal acts of violence that we have seen many of our brothers and sisters — our fellow Americans in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community — have been subjected to, verbal assault and physical violence,” he said. “And we are here to say today that this is unacceptable. We will never tolerate acts of hate like this here in Suffolk County.”

Zeldin, who has been criticized for not supporting in the House a resolution condemning anti-Asian hate related to the COVID-19 pandemic, received criticism at the rally, including from state Sen. John Liu (D-Flushing). The state senator said he was happy to see U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) there who voted in favor of the legislation.

“Not every Congress member you will hear from today, voted for it,” he said. “People want to be held accountable. I’m in office, I expect you to hold me accountable. I may not be his constituent, but I’m going to hold Congressman Zeldin accountable for voting ‘no.’”

“We need everybody who says they support us to actually support us,” Liu said.

When Zeldin spoke at the podium his wife, Diana, who is Asian American, stood by his side. Some of the people in attendance at first jeered when he began to talk.

Zeldin said the rally wasn’t a partisan political one.

“We all have to stand together in these moments to come together and rally against the violence when you are targeting someone because of their religion or their color of their skin, or where they come from,” he said. “Every American, and especially as we are reminded in this crowd of people who love our community and our country, who come here for the American Dream to pursue hope and opportunity. All of you are here not just for this flag but for community, and for each other to make a difference.”

Also, speaking at the event was Shaorui Li, president of the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook. The East Setauket resident was born in China and immigrated here more than 20 years ago.

During her speech, she said since last year there has been a 150% increase of crimes against Asian Americans.

“Why are Asians being treated this way?” Li asked the crowd.

In a phone interview the day after she said, “I wanted them to think, because we’ve been too quiet.”

Li said she was touched to see people from all ethnic backgrounds at the event as well as various elected officials from the area.

“I said to everyone, not only Asians, but African Americans and Latino Americans, I wanted to ask them to be with us together because in the past there have been different opinions. But this definitely shows how being minorities being together, we can get the support we need,” she said.

 

 

A protester holds up an "Impeach Trump" sign. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Protesters rallied in two North Shore locations this past weekend, to demonstrate their First Amendment right to protest. 

Nearly 100 people stood on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket on Saturday holding signs urging that President Donald Trump (R) be impeached. For the last 18 years, the North Country Peace Group has stood on the bend, every weekend, to protest.

This year was different.

“I’m going on 79 years, and I’ve seen a good chunk of American history,” said protester Jerry Shor. “I’m really sad this happened to our government, which I owe a lot to … We have tremendous respect for our government.”

And although Shor said he doesn’t always agree with what the government does, he knew he had to exercise his right to demonstrate, protest and make his feelings known. 

In response to the storming of the United States Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, members of the group wanted to make their voices heard — their anger at the president for inciting violence, and their urge to remove Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) from Congress. 

“I usually don’t come out, but today seemed like a day we had to because of what happened in Washington on Wednesday,” said protester Bob Keeler. “And Lee Zeldin, who supposedly represents us in the Congress, is not representing me very well. It’s time for him to be a former congressman.”

Several protesters stand on the corner of Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, responding to events taken place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Normally the corner has a large group of counter-protesters — known as the North Country Patriots — across the way. This weekend there was only a small group of five. 

“The real patriots are the ones who are voicing their opinions the way our forefathers really meant to be voiced,” Shor said. 

Protester Paige Pearson said she had a bad feeling that something was going to happen Jan. 6. 

“My immediate thought was I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “But I’m extremely disappointed.”

Pearson said she was disheartened to see what was happening in Washington D.C., especially when she previously participated in other protests that were peaceful and civil. 

“We’ve been fighting for months and months, trying to stay as peaceful as possible,” she said. “And then all of these people can just storm into the Capitol, and cause all of this violence and destruction, and get out clean and unharmed.”

At the same time, at Resistance Corner on Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, a smaller, but just as loud group rallied against the president. 

A protester at a rally on Routes 347 and 112. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Organizers of the Friends for Justice group Holly Fils-Aime said the protesters chose to stand at the corner of Nesconset Highway because nearly 3,000 cars pass every hour.

“Obviously we were very upset when Trump claimed election fraud,” she said. 

With the riots down south, Fils-Aime said she and her group are calling for the president to be impeached. 

Holding signs of Trump’s face on a peach, the group voiced their hopes that Congress will vote to remove the president from power. 

“I can’t believe this is happening to our country,” Fils-Aime said. “He’s been talking about this for months. … We need to get him out of office, so he can’t do this again.”

Protesters at the North Country Peace Group rally. Photo by Julianne Mosher

by -
0 3235

More than 200 Smithtown school district parents and students made it clear that they want children in school five days a week.

On Aug. 11, members of the Facebook page Open Up Branch Brook & Nesconset El!!!! rallied outside of the district’s administration office on Main Street to call for five full days of school when classes start in fall. The group first protested on the site Aug. 5, and Tuesday’s event was held before the board of education’s meeting set for the same evening.

The families are asking for the district’s vacant Branch Brook and Nesconset elementary school buildings to be opened up once again in order for students to attend school five days a week in person starting in September. Currently, Smithtown students will return to school following a hybrid model where they will have in person instruction two or three days a week and the other days learn remotely. 

During the protest, attendees shouted “five full days,” as an overwhelming amount of passing drivers honked their horns and gave the protesters the thumbs up. Some drivers even slowed down to cheer them on or read the signs.

Stacy Murphy, one of the organizers of the Facebook page, said members of the group submitted questions for that night’s BOE meeting. Many in attendance were disappointed that the public was unable to attend even though 50 or less is legally allowed under state COVID-19 guidelines. The meeting was instead viewed via live stream.

Murphy said parents have not been receiving answers to their emails recently and have been directed to the district’s website.

“We want to know the answers,” Murphy said.  “We want to be heard. We are tired of our voices being stifled.”

Jennifer Cuomo said many feel the BOE abandoned a plan to have children in school five days a week and is not doing their job in educating their children. She added she believes they haven’t presented a good reason to not go back five days.

“We have empty buildings,” she said. “We have extra money in the budget. The answers they are giving just aren’t satisfactory.”

Cuomo and Murphy said they believe in keeping the full-time remote option for those who don’t want their children to be in a brick and mortar setting.

“Hybrid is not safer,” Cuomo said. “What it is is equal to less days of education. When the kids are home they don’t have live learning. It’s asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning does not work. We are not teachers at home.”

She added that many parents who are teachers will be returning to work soon, some five days a week in physical classrooms.

“So who’s supposed to be with these children helping them with their schoolwork,” Cuomo said.

Before entering the BOE meeting, board President Matthew Gribbin stopped to hear parents’ concerns. One parent said that he and his wife both work and aren’t able to stay home with their child, which would mean an additional $800 in childcare costs for the family.

When the idea to open up the two vacant buildings came up during the live streaming of the BOE meeting, parents were told to reference the district’s FAQ page where it is stated that if both schools were reopened, and district students were spread out throughout the two schools and currently opened buildings, there will still not be enough room to enforce social distancing of elementary school students.

Murphy said after the meeting that the BOE members have not produced the data to support the claim after parents have asked in emails and board meetings and some parents have even issued Freedom of Information Law requests to get their hands on the information.

“They have no idea if the kids would fit because they don’t even know who isn’t returning, who is keeping their kids home or who is withdrawing their kids to private schools,” she said, adding the survey to cultivate the info was only made available Aug. 12.

Protesters across the North Shore have been active in recent protests on Long Island such as the one that took place in Stony Brook June 7. Photo by Mike Reilly

While 2020 will be remembered for the coronavirus, this year’s summer will be recorded in the history books for the millions of voices speaking out against injustice and police brutality across the country.

Ashley Payano has been among the protest organizers along the North Shore.

The H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge will be the site of a rally this Saturday, Aug. 1, where activist group Long Island Fight for Equality intends to host an event to speak out against racial injustice and inequality from 2 to 6 p.m. The rally as well as a march comes more than two months after George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer which reignited outrage over police brutality in the U.S.

The summer has been filled with hundreds of Black Lives Matter protests such as in Hauppauge, Port Jefferson Station, Stony Brook and multiple ones through the streets of Smithtown and Huntington in June and July. While most have been peaceful, some have seen the conflict between protester and cop escalate, such as when at a recent Babylon protest, three participants from Black White Brown United were arrested, including a Stony Brook resident charged with harassment, according to Suffolk County police.

Couple Ashley Payano, 23, and Ian Atkinson, 26, are organizing the Aug. 1 Hauppauge rally and march. Together, they have helped assemble as well as attend about half-a-dozen protests and rallies in the last couple of months. Atkinson lives in Farmingville, while Payano splits her time between the Bronx and Long Island, with plans to move to the Island in the future. They are just two among scores of protest leaders, but having attended many such protests on Long Island, they said momentum is still strong.

“As a young Black person, these struggles affect me and my family directly so I couldn’t imagine not taking part in it,” Payano said.

Atkinson said the number of people at these protests has varied. At one in Stony Brook near the Smith Haven Mall, there were more than 1,000 attendees, while a Port Jeff Station protest saw around 150 people at its peak. Payano said a fundraising aspect has been added to many of the rallies, with protesters asked to bring canned goods and hygiene products to be donated to those in need.

Payano said she feels this is an extension of the civil rights movement and believes that the passion will lead to actual change.

“I think that instead of this being about protests, I think this is a movement,” she said. “It is for change. I think it’s important to continue to practice civil disobedience and civil unrest.”

Atkinson said he is driven by frustration because he feels many have not experienced the freedom and equality that the country stands for.

“Clearly, it hasn’t been the way it’s supposed to be for certain populations,” he said. “African Americans, minorities, are not treated fairly or equally in this country.”

He said he also believes that the civil rights movement leaders didn’t get everything they were fighting for.

“We know what we’re fighting for and we’re not looking to stop until we’ve gotten it,” he said.

Several weeks after the start of the BLM protests, a counter movement, largely either called pro-police rallies or Blue Lives Matter rallies have garnered hundreds of participants, such as one in Port Jefferson Station June 22. Though many of these rallies have been led by and have featured conservative figures such as U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and former Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, participants have called on people to support police, who they say have been attacked unfairly.

Ian Atkinson has been among the protest organizers along the North Shore.

Atkinson said the Blue Lives Matter rallies have added to his frustrations.

“They’re completely missing the point,” he said. “They don’t stand for anything. It’s just frustrating because they’re kind of going against the belief that everyone should be equal.”

Payano, who has been involved in music, acting and real estate, and is planning to take some college courses this school year, said she has been politically active since age 15, as her father spoke out often about housing issues in the Bronx. She said she has been part of similar efforts through the years when a young Black person’s death was followed by protests, but she hasn’t seen them last as long as they have now.

The Bronx native said the more she comes to Long Island the more she notices de facto segregation and the impact of redlining, which has disturbed her. She said she also notices that people will sometimes stare at her when she and Atkinson are on Long Island. However, she added that she has seen a diverse group of people of all different backgrounds and ages at rallies throughout the Island, except in Brentwood where there were more attendees of color.

“It’s really nice to meet people from all backgrounds who believe in the same thing,” she said. “And the people who honk their cars and pass by, it showed me there are more people in support of this movement than not.”

Atkinson, who works with the developmentally disabled to help them adapt to everyday life, is looking toward a future with Payano, who he met at a paint night in Manhattan. The Long Islander said he hopes to see their children grow up in a different environment.

“I don’t want them to grow up in a community where they’re not looked at like everyone else,” he said.

Atkinson and Payano said in all the protests they’ve been part of, everyone has been asked to wear a mask and stay home if they are immunocompromised. So far, the majority have seemed to comply. The couple have also encountered counter protesters, but Atkinson said they welcome conversation, even though at times it can be scary after hearing of stories such as a Black Lives Matter protester being attacked or having water thrown on them.

“We welcome the discussion as long as they are willing to hear us out,” he said.

Payano said while some discussions are disheartening, she understands why it’s hard for people to believe that their loved ones or even themselves “have been practicing bigotry.” She said she looks at the debates from a sociological standpoint.

“Our brain is programmed to protect us from things that will hurt us whether it’s emotionally or our sense of self or identity or belief system that we have ingrained in us, which is very well capable of growth of change,” she said. “But a lot of people have a belief system, and they would prefer to avoid the instability of having to start from scratch.”

Regarding change, Payano is optimistic.

“It’s going to take a while, but I believe it’s possible,” she said.

Many drivers were honking their horns at the intersection of Veterans Highway and Route 25 in Commack May 14, but it wasn’t due to traffic.

More than 100 people rallied in front of the Macy’s parking lot in support of businesses deemed nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic opening up as soon as possible. While many were honking in support of the participants, a couple of drivers yelled disapproving comments out their windows.

The Reopen NY rally was the second one to take place at the location this month with the first one held May 1. The May 14 event was posted on the website Meetup by Olivia M. who asked attendees to decorate their cars, wave their flags and wear patriotic colors.

Many held signs with messages such as “My constitutional rights are essential,” “My sons are not lab rats for Bill Gates vaccine” and “Cuomo to businesses: drop dead.” One large dog wore a sign that read, “Dog grooming is essential.”

The dog’s owner, Debbie Wilson, who traveled from Freeport, said she was a retired dog groomer who came out of retirement to take care of some people’s pets.

“Dogs need maintenance,” she said. “Grooming dogs is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why they shut down dog groomers.”

She added it’s important to maintain many dogs’ ears and nails for health reasons and this is done while grooming. 

During the rally, News 12 Long Island reporter Kevin Vesey was filming participants with his smartphone live on Facebook. He had concluded interviews with his cameraman and was documenting the event for social media.

While describing the scene, one woman confronted him saying she noticed he was wearing a mask which she said he didn’t do at the May 1 rally. Vesey responded he did wear a mask last time. The woman was quickly followed by another female, and both had megaphones. The duo was questioning him about his reporting of the May 1 Commack rally saying he was trying to paint the narrative instead of reporting it and said his report prompted people to call the May 1 protesters “murderers.” One man yelled that Vesey was not a real journalist but a “political operative.”

As he kept backing up, continuing to film them, about a half a dozen kept following him aggressively, criticizing his reporting and asking why his job is considered essential and theirs are not.

During the verbal confrontation, a few police officers were standing nearby and evaluating the situation. The May 14 rally had a strong police presence, and before it started, an announcement by the Suffolk County Police Department was made to remind participants of the importance of wearing facial masks and social distancing.

Across the street, a nurse took in the rally and said she was surprised by how many people participating, especially children who were there, were not wearing masks.

“I guess they don’t know anyone who died from this,” she said.

After the event, the Setauket Patriots, who were among the organizers, took to Facebook and apologized to Vesey for their fellow protesters’ behavior.

“We can tell you that the few who decided to harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affiliated with the Setauket Patriots group in any way, shape or form,” the post read. “We were looking forward to you giving us fair coverage with what you documented when we first arrived. But as with all mass rally events, you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful, pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by police.”

At press time, Long Island still had not met the seven health metrics required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to reopen the region. The state’s pause order was extended until May 28 for regions that didn’t meet the requirements to reopen May 15.

“Climate change is not a lie, please don’t let our planet die,” a crowd of more than 50 people yelled in unison in front of Suffolk County’s H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge Sept. 27. Students, community groups, environmental activists and elected officials gathered to call for immediate action by governments and corporations on the current climate emergency.   

Kallen Fenster, 13, speaks about the impact of climate change. Photo by David Luces

The protest came on the last day of the Global Climate Strike, spearheaded by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who joined some 250,000 protesters in Manhattan Sept. 20. 

Kallen Fenster, a 13-year-old middle school student and founder of the youth organization Leadership for Environmental and Animal Protection, spoke on the effects climate change could have on future generations. 

“Myself and the others here are like millions around the world that we represent today that are worried for their lives and yours,” he said. “Entire species are dying, our oceans are filthy with plastic waste, our beaches are unsafe to swim in, the air is polluted. What hope is there for my future children, or even worse, theirs?” 

The middle schooler called on lawmakers to put more of an emphasis on climate change policy. 

“Tonight, we the youth demand that local, state and federal lawmakers put climate policy first,” Fenster said. “We ask every adult to be a climate action hero and advance policy that will protect communities and its families. It will take all of us, it will take work and it will take sacrifices, but we have no choice, we have no ‘planet B.’”

Other youth activists who spoke at the protest had similar sentiments. 

Gabe Finger, a 7-year-old elementary student, said he wants more people to take this movement seriously. 

“I want people to stop seeing climate change as a political belief and look at it as the dire crisis it is,” he said. “More and more people are seeing that global warming is something not to be ignored. This is not just a fight for the environment, but a fight for our lives — do whatever you can to help because hope is not lost yet.” 

Camilla Riggs, a student at The Laurel Hill School in East Setauket, mentioned climate change will affect everyone. 

“You may not believe in the science but it doesn’t mean you are immune to it or your children’s children. This is not about us anymore, this is about the future of all of us,” she said.

Elected officials called out the current White House administration, which has dialed back on climate change reform.  

“This president has engaged in an assault on all previous efforts to control and contain these greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the Paris accord was an embarrassment, said state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove). “It is hard to imagine an American president would hire the worst polluters to run the agencies that are supposed to protect us.” 

Lavine said despite that, the state has started to move in the right direction in curbing greenhouse emissions. He mentioned the state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, congestion pricing going into effect in New York City and a ban on single-use plastic as key steps forward. 

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said we hopefully haven’t run out of time when it comes to climate change. 

“We have to hand [the Earth] over to them responsibly but, to be honest with you, my generation hasn’t been responsible and we have to step up to the plate,” he said.

Elmer Flores, of New York’s 2nd District Democrats, spoke on how climate change is already affecting certain communities. 

“Our low-income communities and minority population will disproportionately feel the negative impacts of climate change,” he said. “Research has shown that climate change, if left unaddressed, will worsen or cause unintended health consequences.”

Flores mentioned that when it comes to air quality, Hispanic and Latino residents have an asthma hospitalization rate that’s three times more than their white counterparts.  

Cheryl Steinhauer, special events manager of Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares, which helped organize the event with Action Together Long Island, spoke on the importance of calling for change. 

“I feel like this is a necessary thing to do. There are a lot of issues at the moment but really this is at the top and most important, at least to me, is taking care of our planet,” she said.

People at a rally in Old Bethpage held up signs signaling for a need for gun legislation. Photo by David Luces

Close to 200 people, including activists, survivors, faith leaders and elected officials filled a room at Haypath Park in Old Bethpage, Aug. 6, to call for common sense gun reform from Washington and to collectively voice ‘enough is enough’.

Moms Demand Action has been at the forefront of LI protests against gun violence. Photo by David Luces

The rally came in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that took 31 lives over last weekend.

“We are upset, heartbroken — and most importantly we are angry,” Tracy Bacher, of Moms Demand Action, an organization founded by a Dix Hills mother after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.  “In less than 24 hours our nation experienced two major mass shootings, this a public health crisis that demands urgent action.”

NYS Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said it’s time for federal government to act on common-sense gun reform.

“We are calling for Washington to take action, we have passed a red-flag law in the state we believe it’s going to save lives,” the senator said in an interview. “But if they can pass one in Washington it will save a lot more lives. We need to get guns off the street that are in the wrong hands.”

While the federal government has been stagnant in achieving more robust gun reform in recent years, individual states have taken it upon themselves to enact their own measures.

New York, in February, became the latest state to adopt a red-flag law, which is intended to prevent individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. It also allows teachers as well as family members and others to petition the courts for protective orders.

Sergio Argueta of S.T.R.O.N.G., a youth advocacy group that focuses against gang and gun violence, said all he and others ask is for the bullets to stop. He began his speech imitating the sounds of gunshots in front of the packed crowd.

“’Pop, pop, pop,’ in day care centers; ‘pop, pop, pop,’ in synagogues; ‘pop, pop, pop’ in houses of worship,” said Argueta. “… It is not fair that we have kids that walk into school that look like prisons. It is not fair that people that go out to Walmart to prepare their kids to start the new school year die.”

Family members of gun violence victims shared their stories.

Tracy Bacher of Moms Demand Action spoke at the rally about a need for gun legislation at the federal level. Photo by David Luces

“It is about time that we do something different, we have been here for Sandy [Hook], we have been here for Parkland and nothing changes,” said Rita Kestenbaum, whose daughter Carol was killed by a gunman in 2007 when she was a sophomore at Arizona State University. “Background checks are lovely, red-flag laws are lovely, but if we don’t get semi-automatic weapons banned, then all of this is for nothing.”

Shenee Johnson said gun violence is preventable. Her son, Kedrick, was killed in a shooting at a high graduation party in 2010. She was in Washington D.C. at a conference called Gun Sense University when she heard of the shooting in El Paso.

“For so many years, I’ve tried to hide my pain and shield my pain from others, but I’m dying inside,” Johnson said. “We can no longer go on like this, how many times do we have to go through something like this.”

Other speakers called for people to fight to end gun violence and the hate that fuels it.

“To eradicate hate, we must fight it with love and action,” said David Kilmnick, of the LGBT Network. “…We say by coming here together that this is not a normal way of life. This is not the America we know.”

Genesis Yanes, a student at Nassau Community College and counselor at S.T.R.O.N.G Youth, was one of many members who brought handmade signs to the rally. The non-profit works with individuals ages 11-21. A hand full of elementary and middle school students were at the rally.

“This is something that affects them directly and their communities, we just want to show them that there are people here who are advocating for this change,” she said.

Karen Bralove Stilwell offers supplies to immigrants at Juarez, Mexico, where immigrants were transferred. Photo from Melanie D’Arrigo

For the third time this month, Long Islanders on July 27 joined hands in Huntington to protest the mistreatment of immigrant children and families at the United States border with Mexico.  

Child promises to reject policies and practices founded in hate. Photo from Eve Krief

“This is not who we are,” they chanted and “Never again is now,” a reference to Jewish encampments in Nazi Germany. 

Some Long Island federal officials share their concerns. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) has recently expressed outrage after returning from detention centers in McAllen, Texas.

Protesters called their rally “Don’t Look Away.” It was the eighth rally held in Huntington since people learned one year ago that the government was separating families at the border.  It was sponsored and co-sponsored by 50 different organizations related to immigration rights, human rights, and pediatric and activist groups. 

Federal lawmakers passed June 24 a $4.5 million emergency bill to address the migrant crisis. Despite the funding, Alethea Shapiro, one of the protesters, said that she is concerned that the bill that passed was strong on enforcement with less funds going toward humanitarian aid as prescribed in the U.S. House of Representatives’ original version of the bill.  

Shapiro was one of several women who have just returned from a humanitarian mission to El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, where some immigrants were transferred.

The women said that they offered supplies such as shoes, underwear and backpacks to immigrants, who were grateful.

Protesters parade the roadside with a cage filled with baby dolls to rally against U.S. immigration policies. Photo from Eve Krief

The protesters adopted the theme “Don’t Look Away” for their latest campaign. Their rally  comes in the wake of recent rules and bills that aim to address the crisis. The Trump administration recently posted a rule denying asylum to migrants that failed to seek asylum in the first foreign land they encountered when fleeing their homeland. District courts have now put the brakes on those limits until further review.

The U.S. Senate is considering a bill H.R. 2615 The U.S. Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. If passed, the law would authorize economic aid and fight corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the homeland of many migrants.

“It’s important for us to create continuous awareness of this humanitarian crisis happening at our southern borders,” said Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). “We cannot rest until every child is safe, treated with dignity and provided basic necessities such as food, sanitary conditions and health care.”