Eleven people — including 10 adults and one minor — were arrested Saturday for disorderly conduct in Merrick after they attempted to move their protest against police brutality onto the Meadowbrook Parkway.
Two Nassau County police officers were injured during the protest when trying to keep the demonstrators, who were on Sunrise Highway, off the Meadowbrook, said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder during County Executive Laura Curran's daily briefing Sunday morning.
One, a police sergeant, suffered a broken ankle, and the other, an officer, came away with a bruised nose and scratched cornea after being punched in the face.
No protesters were injured during the altercation, said Ryder, who was at the scene.
Around 250 protesters demonstrated in Merrick Saturday — down significantly from Thursday, when 4,000 demonstrators convened in the community. No arrests or injuries were reported during protests from Tuesday to Friday.
The commissioner pointed out that it was raining during the protest, and the roads were slick and potentially dangerous to demonstrators and motorists. The Meadowbrook is a major thoroughfare where the posted speed limit is 55 mph.
"Ninety percent of the protesters wanted nothing to do with it," Ryder said, referring to demonstrating on the Meadowbrook.
Many of the protesters, he said, called on the roughly 25 who had splintered off to continue protesting on streets in Merrick.
"Most of these people were peaceful," Ryder emphasized.
The commissioner implored demonstrators to remain peaceful during their protests, asking them to stay on message: "Say his name — George Floyd." Ten protests, he said, were scheduled across Nassau on Sunday.
"We cannot tolerate violence," he said.
"My cops," he also said, "are not bad people," noting that they have remained "calm" and "professional" during a week of protests, including when challenged with "vulgarities" by protesters.
At one point during Saturday's protest, Ryder said, a local resident challenged the demonstrators. Police surrounded the home and ushered the resident inside it.
In an earlier statement, Ryder said Nassau had had five straight days of peaceful protests without an arrest.
The protests in Merrick and across Nassau are part of a nationwide Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd died Memorial Day when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.
"Nassau County police officers are highly trained professionals, and for days at multiple demonstrations, had positively engaged with protesters at all events, even during some tense moments," a county statement read.
"Our police officers take an oath to protect and serve, and they have done that admirably," the statement continued. "We have and continue to protect the public, which includes protesters during marches on major roadways and during their interaction with counter-protesters."
County police continue "to support the rights of individuals to exercise their freedom of speech. However, these demonstrations must remain safe and orderly."
The parkways, which are patrolled by state police, are not open for protesting, according to the county.
"We would like to thank the public for their patience and cooperation during these troubling times," the county's statement concluded.
On Thursday, about 500 protesters had shut down the Southern State Parkway in North Merrick for about two hours.
Throughout the week, thousands have protested peacefully in Merrick and Bellmore, as well as in communities across the South Shore. An estimated 2,000 protesters convened in Merrick on Wednesday and 4,000 on Thursday, as well as a smaller number on Friday and Saturday.
The large-scale protests began after a group of counter-protesters attempted to stop roughly 150 Black Lives Matter protesters from marching on the sidewalk along Merrick Road on Tuesday. Police had to escort the protesters around the group of about 30 counter-protesters.