Terrel Tuosto, a 28-year-old from West Hempstead, recalled how he and his brother were arrested by Nassau County police in East Meadow earlier this month while peacefully protesting police violence and systemic racism.
“My brother was grabbed, hit in the face and thrown into a police cruiser,” he said. Police “started surrounding me. One officer stood in front of me . . . he’s walking in front of me, stops short and bumps back into me so that it could look like I initiated contact with him. They threw me to the ground, planted their knee on my back and on my neck, and arrested me.”
Tuosto, a protest organizer with the group LI Peaceful Protest, recounted the incident via bullhorn in front of a crowd outside Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s house in Baldwin on July 23. Tuosto, Michael Motamedian, a 20-year-old protest organizer from East Meadow, and more than 45 people marched in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement from Baldwin High School to Curran’s house.
More than a dozen police surrounded protesters in marked and unmarked cars. They escorted the protesters through the streets, slowly driving in front of and behind them, simultaneously announcing through what sounded like an automated voice via bullhorn that they would arrest people if they did not move off the street and stop blocking traffic.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are obstructing vehicular traffic. If you refuse to move, you are subject to arrest. I am ordering you to immediately leave this roadway. If you do so voluntarily, no charges will be lodged against you. If you do not comply, you will be arrested immediately.”
Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter!” to drown out the sound, as well as, “When the Black community’s under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Nassau County police said no arrests were made at the protest. Police, including officials from the 1st Precinct, whose officers responded to the demonstration, did not respond to requests for comment as of press time Monday.
Tuosto and Motamedian helped plan the protest, which led down Grand Avenue to DeMott and Berkeley avenues. The day before, the pair were arrested in Suffolk County for alleged reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct when they had just begun a peaceful protest.
“As soon as it started, not even a minute in, these black cars pulled up from all different directions and grabbed him,” said Sebastian Lauer, a Commack resident who attended both the Suffolk County and Baldwin protests.
Officers heavily outnumbered the group, Lauer said, and detained three people while refusing to answer why they were being detained. “Many of the officers were not wearing masks while making the arrests and physical contact with protesters. It’s worth noting they arrested them directly parallel to a crosswalk three yards away while we all crossed the street at the beginning of the event.”
Those involved with LI Peaceful Protest visit many different neighborhoods, Motamedian said, noting that Baldwin is a “diverse” community.
“Sometimes we go to predominantly white neighborhoods to disrupt,” he explained, “and we go to diverse or predominantly Black neighborhoods to lift up the Black community.”
The protesters stood or sat cross-legged in the street outside Curran’s house as Tuosto listed demands to effect change.
“Ms. Curran, the first thing that you can do is, you need instill diversity within your Police Department,” Tuosto said. “Secondly, we need some transparency in what’s going on in these [Police And Community Trust] meetings,” he continued, referring to a recently launched county initiative called PACT that aims to build trust, transparency and dialogue between police and community activists. “That’s supposed to be restoring relationships. We need to know exactly what is going on behind closed doors and what you are doing to make change.”
Third, he asked that Curran rescind the new protocol that requires protesters to inform police of protest routes at least a day before.
“You see, because she made the PACT thing that made it seem like she was really with protesters. Then a week or two later, she puts out this quick law — rushes and makes an announcement, right, and says protesters can’t do X, Y and Z; they have to follow these guidelines. . . . You know it’s unconstitutional and unjust.”
Tuosto said Black people have been pacified with “just words” for many years, citing white people who say, “Well, you’ve had a Black president,” instances of people painting “Black Lives Matter” on streets, the Village of Hempstead renaming Main Street “Black Lives Matter Way” and Nassau County’s creation of the PACT initiative.
“Black people, my fellow brothers and sisters, we have been given symbolic victories over and over,” Tuosto said. “You see, we need real, actual, definitive change.” The crowd applauded.
He also called for body cameras to be placed on each officer and for police to be held accountable by an outside source, “because we cannot have anymore police policing police.”
Curran’s husband, John, stood outside the house and watched the protesters speak. Curran’s daughters set up a table offering bottles of water, hand sanitizer and voter registration materials. John declined to comment.
Curran did not respond to requests for comment as of press time Monday.
“This is why we’re here,” Tuosto said. “This is why we bring it to your neighborhood — because you can’t turn us off like you would turn off on the TV if you see a protester. You can’t go to another social media page when you see a link of a video that you don’t like. We’re here, we’re present. You cannot run away from us.”