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Black Lives Matter rallies in East Meadow

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Dozens of Long Islanders gathered at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on July 9 to march in the first Black Lives Matter rally in central Nassau County. The march was organized by a group of Long Island youth following the recent killings of two African-American men by police in Baton Rouge, La., and Falcon Heights, Minn.

One protester, a young man who did not wish to be identified, said that he had “had enough of the recent heinous acts of police brutality.”

As the protesters gathered in Eisenhower Park, they held picket signs that read, “How many more?” and “Long Island stands against police brutality.” Another read, “I am tired of mourning sons I have not even birthed yet,” and another, “All lives should matter but that’s not the case.”

Rally-goers began the march in the park before heading to the south side of Hempstead Turnpike and circling back into the park.

Among other chants, marchers shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Rachina Phillips, 18, of Hempstead, said that she has had frightening encounters with white police officers in her own community. “The automatic feeling that I get is afraid because it’s happening so often now,” she said. “You would expect to feel protected by a police officer, but since all the events that have happened, instead you feel cautious.”

Black Lives Matter, a movement without a single leader, began in 2013 in reaction to a series of killings of unarmed African-Americans by police.

According to its website, Black Lives Matter “advocates for dignity, justice, and respect.” One of the movement’s guiding principles is the idea of restorative justice. “We are committed to collectively, lovingly, and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for black people,” the website states.

In 2015, young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers, according to the findings of a study by the Guardian newspaper. That year, 1,134 African-Americans were killed by law enforcement officers.

“Walking in the rally made me very proud to see that my community came together for this particular cause,” said Mahdia Muhammad, 18, of Hempstead.

In all, more than 150 residents of Uniondale, Hempstead, Elmont and East Meadow came together to march.

“It was actually heartwarming to me, in a way, that we finally came together as a community. Someone actually spoke out,” said the young man who did not wish to be identified. “And I was able to join in and have a voice about the situation.”

Rally organizers said they intend to expand the effort by holding additional rallies in the near future.

Editor’s note: Amoy Brown, 18, is a recent graduate of Hempstead High School and participant in the Hofstra University High School Summer Journalism Institute. She wrote this piece as a project for the institute, which took place July 5 to 15.