Black Lives Matter Protest Closes Montauk Main Street

T.E. McMorrow
Dr. Travis Wilkins spoke to the crowd.
Protestors gathered in Montauk in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Independent/T.E. McMorrow

Montauk Main Street was shut down from Kirk Park to Carl Fisher Plaza for a peaceful demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter on Monday, July 6.

Supporters gathered first at Kirk Park on the western edge of downtown Montauk. At 3:30 p.m., the group that numbered about 250 people marched east on Main Street, ending on the green at Carl Fisher Plaza.

There, several speakers addressed the deaths of Black men and women in police custody across the country.

The demonstration drew celebrity names in support of the movement, including Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts, Sienna Miller, Cynthia Rowley and Christy Turlington, according to Page Six.

For Tanish Lindsay, one of the organizers, the march was a form of justice for the rights of protestors. Lindsay had wanted to lead the previous march on June 19 down Main Street but was not permitted to do so.

Rachelle Hruska, a web communications entrepreneur and the founder of Guest of a Guest, was at the first demonstration. When she learned of Lindsay’s desire to march down Main Street she put Lindsay in touch with Annie Dean, an attorney.

Dean and Lindsay reviewed the East Hampton Town Code. The previous demonstration had been held under a special permit issued by the town board. Because Lindsay was exercising a Constitutional right to demonstrate, she should not have been required to get a permit. Lindsay could exercise her First Amendment rights just by notifying the town, Dean said.

The town agreed with Dean’s view of the law, and put Lindsay and Hruska in touch with police chief Michael Sarlo, as well as with the Montauk Chamber of Commerce.

Lindsay addressed the crowd twice at the green, at the beginning and at the end.

Once demonstrators arrived at the green, they dedicated eight minutes and forty-six seconds to the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. For half that time, they were silent, for the other half, Lindsay led a call and response chant of “I can’t breath,” words Floyd was videoed saying to the white police officer who had his knee pressed down on the back of Floyd’s neck.

Several other speakers took the microphone, including Hruska.

Prior to the event, Hruska posted on Instagram, calling for members of the community to join. “I’ve been more determined than ever to galvanize people here,” her post read. “Many may not realize this, but Montauk is a small town with a lot of local residents who hate people that don’t look like them (white). In particular the immigrant worker population who struggles to have their voices heard.”

Dr. Travis Wilkins spoke to the crowd. Independent/T.E. McMorrow

Dr. Travis Wilkins, a minister and middle-school teacher in Virginia who grew up in Bridgehampton spoke. “This little Black boy was told he could never sit in a four-year university because he was not able to sit still long enough,” said Wilkins, “because I was special education. Now I am a special education teacher.”

Willie Jenkins, who also grew up on Bridgehampton, told the crowd that he was not a trained speaker, but that he spoke from the heart. He warned the predominantly white crowd that they must not walk away thinking that attending a BLM demonstration was nearly enough. “We’ve got to speak up for the marginalized people who aren’t being accounted for. And right now that is Black lives. And that is brown lives, Hispanic lives.”

Lindsay said there was rampant racism in Montauk, particularly in the restaurant business. She asked why it is that Black employees are in the kitchen, while, in past years, white employees who don’t speak English, are put in the higher paying front-of-the-house jobs, like waiter, bartender and hostess.

Before the march, and before Main Street was blocked off by the police to allow the protesters to move freely, several supporters held up Black Lives Matter signs on the shoulder of the roadway in both directions.

An occasional motorist would flip the bird to the protestors. Some were indifferent. Others honked their horns in support.

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