Nassau County wound down a whirlwind week of Black Lives Matter protests through local neighborhoods last week that were, with one exception, peaceful and uplifting.
Tens of thousands marched, from Valley Stream to Bellmore and from Hempstead to Long Beach. They came seeking justice for George Floyd, killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
At the same time, the protesters said they wanted social justice for all people, regardless of skin color.
It’s about time that protests of this magnitude happened here in Nassau. Often in the past, when protests of this kind took place in response to an injustice, they happened in big cities like New York, Washington and Los Angeles. That left Nassau residents with the distinct impression that the social injustices that black people have faced were not their concern. This time, protesters brought the demonstrations to our otherwise quiet suburban neighborhoods, making them impossible to ignore.
And these protesters weren’t taking no for an answer. In Merrick, a group of about 30 people, a number of whom were from local neighborhoods, tried to stop 150 Black Lives Matter protesters from marching on the sidewalk. That led police to escort the BLM protesters around the counterprotesters.
The next day, roughly 2,000 BLM protesters turned out in Merrick and marched through local streets, from Sunrise Highway to Merrick Road, on to Bellmore and back to Merrick. They chanted and cheered, rapped and sang. This time, many local residents came out to welcome them.
The day after that, 4,000 protesters turned out, and they kept coming every day through last Sunday. Outstanding!
On Saturday, a group of about two dozen protesters rushed at Nassau County police officers while trying to protest on the Meadowbrook Parkway in Merrick in the rain, according to authorities. One officer’s ankle was broken. Another suffered a bruised nose and a scratched cornea.
This should never have happened. No one should have attempted to protest on the parkway, particularly when it was wet and slick. As one Facebook user commented, to do so would have been a “death wish.”
More important, police never should have been injured. The NCPD did an excellent job of maintaining the peace and keeping everyone safe throughout the week. They didn’t deserve this.
There were only 11 arrests of protesters last week, all in Merrick, and all were among those who tried to jump onto the Meadowbrook.
We seem in this nation to be in a perpetual cycle of violence against people of color, followed by protests that at times turn violent, as they did in major cities around the country last week. It’s time that we end that cycle.
Over the weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo renewed his call for enactment of the “Say Their Name” reform agenda, saying that police have to do their jobs, but do not have the right to abuse those they police, and that society will no longer tolerate delayed justice.
The Say Their Name agenda would:
• Make public prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by reforming Section 50-a of the state’s Civil Rights Law.
• Ban chokeholds by law enforcement officers.
• Prohibit false, race-based 911 reports and make them a crime.
• Designate the attorney general as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
We fully support passage of this legislation, and we call on the State Legislature to act on it immediately.
“Police have to do their jobs, protect public safety,” Cuomo said. “There’s also police abuse. There’s abuse of power. Protesters — most of the protesters are peaceful — they are indignant. It is righteous indignation. I don’t see anybody who can see the Mr. Floyd video and not be indignant. I don’t understand how you can see that murder on videotape and not be outraged. I said from Day One, I share that outrage.”