By Odeya Rosenband and Rita J. Egan
Community members gathered on the corner of Main Street and Route 25A in East Setauket Aug. 1. They were there to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Standing in front of the Pen & Pencil Building, about a dozen ralliers held signs reading, “Racial equality now,” “Equality & justice for All, Black Lives Matter,” “Stop the hate” and “A change is gonna come.”
One of the organizers, Kathy Schiavone of Port Jefferson, said they picked the corner because it’s a well-trafficked intersection with a red light, which would give drivers an opportunity to read their signs. The participants received displays of support from some drivers honking or giving the thumbs up, while others in vehicles passing by yelled out, “Communists,” “Trump 2020,” “All lives matter,” “Blue lives matter” and “Get over it.”
“We are only on this planet for a short period of time, and it really behooves us to be kind to one another,” Schiavone said. “And as Rodney King [a 1992 police victim] said, ‘Can we all just get along?’”
She said she was touched by the work of former Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D), a civil rights activist who would frequently say get into “good trouble.” The congressman died July 17.
“It brings tears to my eyes when I listen to the tributes for him and all he went through his entire life for the good of the community, and I just want to support the Black Lives Movement and everyone who feels that they need support at this time,” she said.
Protester Sue Hoff, also of Port Jefferson, said she participated to make it known that she believes in the movement. She said of the upcoming 2020 election, “I’m voting Black Lives Matter.” She has protested since the late 1950s for civil rights, for peace during the Vietnam War and for the reduction of nuclear weapons.
“I have grandchildren,” she said. “I’m not going to give up.”
Another protester, Kevin Mulligan of Setauket, said it was a responsibility to speak out.
“It’s an obligation in these times of political divisiveness to choose a side and not stay complacent and set a model for the children that change only comes through action,” he said.
Attendee Jeff Goldschmidt said as a longtime resident in the Stony Brook area the last few years have been revealing to him.
“I never knew Suffolk County was so undemocratic,” he said. “It’s so red and so bigoted. I was very surprised.”
Organizer Christina Maffia, of Setauket, said it was important to her to rally at the corner because she feels the nation’s rhetoric has turned negative, especially after what happened with the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May.
“Just because people feel Black lives matter does not mean white lives don’t matter or blue lives don’t matter,” she said. Because if Black lives matter, we wouldn’t have to worry about anybody else’s life mattering, because all lives would matter.”