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Freeporters speak out on George Floyd's death

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People started to stream into the demonstration in front of the Nassau County Legislature and Executive Building in Mineola on June 1. They had come to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“It's unbelievable that these things are still happening,” said Eugene Williams, of Freeport, who serves as the civic engagement chairperson of the Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP. “People are frustrated, and they’re making their voices heard.” 

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

A coalition of Nassau advocacy groups planned the protest, “Justice for George Floyd.”

The demonstration followed the Memorial Day death of Floyd, 46, an African-American man who died after 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, responded to a report of a man attempting to pass a counterfeit $20 at a shop. 

Barbara Powell, an executive board member of the Hempstead NAACP, described Floyd’s death as a “modern-day lynching,” noting, “People are fed up and disgusted with how things are and how they keep repeating.”

Patrick Ryder, the Nassau police commissioner, attended the rally. "People are here to speak their minds and get their message across," he said. "What happened in Minneapolis should never have happened. We have a good relationship with our communities. People are exercising their rights, and we hope to continue to do so peacefully."

Leslie Davis, president of the Westbury NAACP, said, “We want to come together peacefully to support our communities. People all over the world are standing up against this injustice. This is a peaceful movement.”

Darleyne Mayers, of Freeport, branch secretary of the Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP, emphasized that Floyd’s death has been witnessed by all who have watched the video of it. “George Floyd’s murder was visible,” she said. “We saw all eight minutes of it. It was reprehensible. We have to send a message, but we have to do it peacefully.”

Among the protest sponsors were the Young Progressives of Nassau County, Indivisible of Nassau County (formerly Indivisible of Rockville Centre), the Hempstead NAACP, Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP, Nassau County chapter of the National Action Network, Anti-Racism Project and Americans of Pakistani Heritage.

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.

Rev. Arthur Mackey Jr., of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, in Roosevelt, said the protests were further fueled by the inaction to hold the four officers who were seen in the video of Floyd’s death accountable for not stopping Chauvin. 

Makcey urged for this accountability to be present in Nassau County as he brought up the case of Akbar Rogers, a  Freeport man who was captured on video being wrestled to the ground and punched and kicked by Freeport Village police officers during his arrest in December.

“America is burning,” Mackey said. “It’s burning in Minneapolis, in Washington D.C., in Los Angeles and New York City. And if we don’t want America to burn in Nassau County, we need to arrest the police officers who beat Akbar Rogers.”   

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:

Prohibit local investigations of officer-involved deaths. Any such investigation should be conducted by an impartial third party, he said.

Define one standard of excessive police force across the nation.

Require the release of officers’ records in cases such as Floyd’s death.

“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.”