Mothers organized two peaceful protests held in Riverhead Town, though they did not attract the number of people that had turned out at previous protests over the last two weeks in Riverhead or elsewhere on the East End in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
At the all-day protest on Route 58, people came and went — at least 100 in total — standing mostly on the west side of the busy traffic circle, near Peconic Bay Medical Center. They shouted phrases like, “No justice, no peace. No racist police,” and, “Black lives matter.” Many drivers passing by beeped their horns.
“I know I’m just one person, one mom, one citizen, but I’m going to do everything I can to be heard as loud as I can,” said Margarita Jimenez Ferebee, one of the organizers. The outpouring of support she said she received, “It speaks a million words.”
Most protestors wore masks, just as the Centers for Disease Control issued a new guidance document that says those at large gatherings are at the highest risk for the novel coronavirus.
The only time the protestors blocked the road was when the police helped stop traffic around 1 PM for about 15 minutes so that demonstrators could stage a lie-in for 8 minutes, 46 seconds to symbolize the final moments of Floyd’s life. Some stood. Some kneeled. Some lay on the ground with their hands behind their backs.
Toward the end, when an ambulance came down the road, those leading the demonstration asked everyone to move to the side to let the ambulance through, though the ambulance cut around the group.
Frederick Miles Jr., who has taken part in other protests, led in the moment of solidarity. “White silence is violence. You don’t feel his pain? Something wrong with America. Something wrong! He’s a human being. Each and everyone of us breathe the same air!”
“And, we all bleed red,” a woman yelled out.
“And, we ALL bleed red. So why are we different than any other?,” Miles said. “I don’t get it. It’s sad. Sad.”
Miles and the other organizers asked the police officers, standing nearby, to kneel with them.
The officers did not move, even as the crowd chanted, “Take a knee. Take a knee.”
She said she Floyd’s death was a breaking point for her. “I want the police to be able to police properly and not have certain just targets on people’s backs. It’s just not fair,” she said.
Valerie Cartright, a civil rights attorney, Brookhaven Town councilwoman, and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for state senate, stood with the protestors.
She handed out flyers about the upcoming primary that noted Cuomo’s recent executive order, New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, mandating police departments work with their communities to come up with new plans for policing. “Now is the time to make your voices heard and engage in community participation on a local level,” the flyer said. “Let your representatives know that you support establishing a citizen’s review board and that it is important for us to see reform not only on the state level, but on the local level.”
A second smaller rally of about 25 also occurred Saturday afternoon by the Peconic Riverfront. Cynthia Brunskill, the mother of nine, organized the protest for mothers. She wore a shirt that said, “Our Sons Matter” on the back, and “Mothers In Solidarity” on the front.
“It was in the hopes to bring all the mothers together — mothers in solidarity,” she explained. She had hoped to get information out and allow mothers to speak about their concerns. She also hopes to reach younger people and impart the importance of voting.
With reporting by Christine Heeren