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Advocacy groups hold George Floyd protest

Bellmore and Merrick residents speak out against injustice

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A coalition of Nassau County advocacy groups organized a protest, “Justice for George Floyd,” outside of the Legislature and Executive Building in Mineola on Monday. Nearly an hour before the scheduled 5:30 p.m. start time, people started to stream into the demonstration, protesting the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Shouting “I can’t breathe" and brandishing handmade signs, they arrived from parts across the county and beyond.

The planned demonstration followed the Memorial Day death of Floyd, 46, an African-American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes before he stopped speaking or moving.

Police, according to authorities, were responding to a report of a man attempting to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a local shop. 

Indivisible Long Island, formerly Indivisible of Rockville Centre, was among the protest sponsors. Bellmore resident and John F. Kennedy High School graduate Julia Levine, a co-leader of Indivisible L.I., attended the rally and handed out fliers with phone numbers for protesters to text and show their support.

“This has to change — how many more people will die?” Levine said. “I want to make an actual difference.”

Through Indivisible L.I., Levine said she hopes to motivate a younger generation of Long Islanders to be politically active. “Through gaining political activity in my community and generation, I’m hoping we can be more aware of our problems and act on them immediately, instead of reacting after the fact,” she said.

“We felt if we don’t make a statement, nothing is going to change,” said Julia’s mother, Karen Levine, a member of the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic Club, which co-sponsored the event. “We have to get the message out that enough is enough.”

“There’s an opportunity now that [George Floyd] didn’t die in vain,” said Claudia Borecky, the club’s president. “It’s an opportunity to build and start over.”

Among the other co-sponsors were the Hempstead NAACP, Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP, the Nassau County chapter of the National Action Network, the Anti-Racism Project and Americans of Pakistani Heritage.

Several college-aged protestors from Bellmore and Merrick independently attended the march as well.

“We don’t stand for the injustice that is happening to people of color across the country,” said Bellmore native Cassie Riordan, a junior at Loyola University who attended the protest. “As one of the most segregated places in the country, it’s important to show solidarity to those struggling.”

“It was really special to see such a diverse group come together in solidarity,” said Merrick resident Jackson Tarricone, a junior at Villanova University. “We are powerful when we are passionate and when we come in such great numbers as today.”

“It’s not enough to not be racist. We have to be anti-racist,” added Jessica Rosen, a Colgate University junior from Merrick.

As of Monday morning, protests against police brutality had swept across the nation, in nearly 70 cities, including in New York City, according to The New York Times. At times, they turned violent, as was the case in the city Saturday night.

On Saturday in Brentwood, in Suffolk County, there was a peaceful demonstration, attended by dozens of protesters who practiced social distancing.

On Friday, Curran tweeted her statement on Floyd's death. It read, "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."

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but as of press time Sunday, none of the other three officers at the scene had been charged.

"This cruel act," Curran continued, "does not represent the vast majority of police officers who, with professionalism and honor, serve and protect our communities. Nassau is committed to community policing because it works. Building trust works, and we always strive to do better."

Governor Cuomo spent much of his Sunday coronavirus briefing addressing the protests that had turned violent, including in New York City. Racism is the central issue at hand, he noted.

"People are outraged, and I understand that. I'm outraged," he said, speaking of Floyd's death.

 He said, however, that "violence never works.”

"Burning down your own house never works," he added. "It dishonors Mr. Floyd's death.

"The goal has to be effecting change," Cuomo said. "Don't tell me we can't change ... Use this moment to demand real change."

According to the governor, people must demand that federal and state legislation be enacted to:

"Be smart, be directed," the governor said. "Help your community, don't hurt your community.

"George Floyd," he said, "must not have died in vain.”

Justin Dynia contributed to this story.