On Saturday morning, the long-planned “Back the Blue Rally” will be held in Southampton Village, but the day will also bring another rally to remind all that the Black Lives Matter movement has not gone away.
Lisa Votino and Willie Jenkins, both local activists, have organized the “Black Lives STILL Matter March and Rally” to follow what they believe is a rally with intentions other than simply showing support for police.
“We have organized protests all summer on the East End that have been peaceful and have opened dialogue with local police departments,” Votino said on Friday. “We were taken aback when a ‘Back the Blue’ rally was scheduled for Southampton Village. It didn’t make sense. It was so counterproductive to all the good will that has been built on all sides out here.”
Both rallies are slated for Agawam Park; the “Back the Blue Rally” starts at 11 a.m. and later the group will march around the village. The Black Lives Matter gathering starts at 4 p.m. and also include a march.
Votino said that, “Unfortunately ‘Back the Blue’ rallies on Long Island have been more about Trump, hateful rhetoric and flagrant racism than about supporting our officers. I attended the ‘Back the Blue’ rally at Eisenhower Park where counter-protestors were screamed at, ridiculed for wearing masks,” she said, adding that an attendee called a young Black woman a hateful name, cursed at her and threatened violence.
“That’s what we want to bring to our community?,” Votino asked.
Kenny Oliver, a former New York City and Southampton Town police officer who lives in North Sea, is the organizer of the “Back the Blue Rally” in Southampton Village. He has told IndyEastEnd.com that his intention is to show support for those in law enforcement and the military, and has denied it is a political rally. Initially, Kenny declined to provide his name, but later sat for an interview when word spread on social media that the rally was aligned with a hate group, which he denies.
“While the organizer of the rally has finally spoken out, his veil of anonymity, the highly-charged language he used, as well as the poorly-chosen email address, left members of our community to only think the worse,” Votino said.
“Those fears were only heightened when I found a handmade sign yesterday promoting the rally…that also had ‘Trump 2020’ on it,” she said. “So while the organizer is saying this is a ‘police appreciation’ event, why is politics involved? This has all the same elements as any of the other back the blue rallies and it will not stand in our community.”
In a Facebook event created for the march and rally, the organizers made clear they do not consider it a counter-protest. “We will not be taking any action during their rally. But we will have the last word in our community. Hate will not go unchecked,” they wrote.
Asked on Friday, Jenkins said he felt it was important to follow the earlier rally with a Black Lives Matter march to show they were not wavering. “It’s important to stand firm on our belief of equality and to not be silenced even when groups and other voices are twisting the meaning of our movement,” he said. “It’s our duty to stand strong and let everyone know we are not against the police, we are not terrorists, we are not anti-American. We just want everyone to be treated fairly and equally and we will stamp out systematic racism and police brutality and make this country less divided.”