More than 2,500 people held a peaceful protest in front of Nassau County’s Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola on Monday evening to combat institutionalized racism.
Protests featuring peaceful walks or displays of solidarity as well as looting and rioting have occurred throughout the nation after George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, was arrested and died in police custody in Minnesota.
“I was horrified after watching the video of the death of George Floyd, and hearing his cries. I believe charges must be brought to ensure the accountability and justice all should expect in our nation,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
According to Meg Norris, the editor and publisher for Litmor Publishing Corp., “around half” of the crowd was made up of white individuals, and a majority consisted of people under the age of 30.
Norris said marchers stuck to the middle of the roads while the police walked alongside on the sidewalks. Protesters urged people who were watching along the way to join in and there were no incidents of damage to homes or businesses.
At several intersections on Jericho Turnpike, Norris said, the police tried to stop the march by blocking the road with vehicles. However, the marchers just went around the blockades. Norris said county police marched up the center of Franklin Avenue and took positions every 20 feet or so. This angered some in the crowd, who then knelt down and began chanting “Take a knee” to the police. Norris said the police did not respond.
Social media rumors spread regarding potential looting at the Roosevelt Field Mall but they proved to be untrue.
“Although demonstrations on Long Island have remained peaceful, we continue to see concerning rumors circulate online threatening violence or looting in Nassau County. We take these threats very seriously,” a joint statement by Curran and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. “We want to assure residents that Nassau County PD is taking every precaution necessary to keep residents safe – including those peacefully demonstrating tonight.”
Floyd was arrested on May 25 by Minneapolis police officers after a deli employee contacted authorities, accusing him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, according to news reports.
A viral video showed Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on Floyd’s neck. A criminal complaint from the Hennepin County attorney’s office said, “The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive.”
Chauvin, who is white, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday, according to news reports. He was one of four officers fired from the Police Department due to the incident.
The complaint said three factors contributed to Floyd’s death, “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”
“Nassau is committed to community policing because it works. Building trust works, and we always strive to do better,” Curran said. “We’ll continue to build bridges between law enforcement and the communities we serve, and use this tragic moment to renew and strengthen engagement and understanding.”