Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Hampton Bays train station to support Black Lives Matter on Sunday afternoon. This protest followed two weeks of demonstrations held across the East End to stand against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which has sparked nationwide protests.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters all over the country who demand an end to racist policing,” stated the Facebook event for Sunday’s protest. “We also remember two other recent victims of deadly racism Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the sadly all too long list of other victims.”
The event, which was organized by Willie Jenkins, Lisa Votino, and Trevon Jenkins, was a peaceful march and demonstration. “We’re here to protest peacefully, but loudly,” said Willie. “We are here for one mission and that’s equality and justice.” He also asked the crowd to offer a round of applause for the police who are “making sure we’re safe” during the protest.
There had been concern that the Ku Klux Klan, an American white supremacist hate group, might make an appearance in Hampton Bays, Willie Jenkins said at a protest on Shelter Island earlier that day. There is evidence of a chapter in that area, and flyers have been handed out in the area in recent years. While the crowd at the protest was overwhelmingly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, there was a small presence of counter-protesters.
“There are some counter-protesters. They have their First Amendment right, just like we do. Unless something gets unruly, they’re there and keep your distance,” said Votino, right before the march began.
The crowd then marched from the train station to the intersection of Old Montauk Highway and Flanders Road, before turning around and heading east on Main Street. Signs were held high, while protesters shouted in unison, “Black lives matter” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
Once the crowd reached the corner Main Street and Ponquogue Avenue, there was a moment of solidarity that lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time George Floyd had the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck.
Those who were more at risk of complications from coronavirus, were encouraged to protest from their own cars on Main Street. Many created signs that voiced support. Those working on Main Street came out to the street to show support. Most of the protestors wore masks as they marched.
Following the moment of solidarity, the group headed back to the train station. As speeches began, the 6:31 Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk pulled into the station. The crowd pointed their signs toward to New York City bound train as the the conductor sounded the horn and cheered in solidarity.
“Suffolk County, New York is the most racist and segregated part of New York” said DeQuan Wilson from Mastic Beach, as he addressed the crowd. “We’re not talking about Minnesota, we’re not talking about Atlanta, we’re not talking about the country, we’re talking about Long Island, New York.”
Wilson brought up the case of Kenny Lazo, a Bay Shore man who died in 2008 while in police custody.
“This generation will do it differently,” he continued. “We don’t have to loot, we don’t have to riot, we don’t have to start the second Civil War, that is not the mission. We will find a way for you to understand what we mean by peace, and if it means stopping traffic for a half hour on a daily basis, that is what we’ll do.”
Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for State Senate, addressed the crowd. “It is time for change,” she said. “Look to your right and to your left, you see people who don’t necessarily look like you, but they stand with you and that’s what’s important.”
“You did it,” she told the crowd, referring to the latest police and criminal justice reform bills, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday.
One message organizers and speakers wanted to get across was the importance of voting. “Voting is so cool, I can’t express it enough,” said Wilson. “We need to make voting as cool as going to the bars, we need to make voting as cool as going to the parties, we need to make voting as cool as going to the beach to hang out with your people. We need to make voting cooler than every last one of those things.”
“It starts with voting,” said Willie. “When you vote, know who you’re voting for.”
To stay updated on upcoming protests, as well as other resources, text BLMELI to 66866.