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.