Roughly two dozen protestors met at the Valley Stream train station Friday evening before heading to the home of Jennifer McLeggan, a local black woman who says she has suffered racial harassement by a trio of white neighbors.
It was the latest in a series of demonstrations over the past two months since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, and the second held in McLeggan’s name since her story drew a crowd of more than 1,000 to her defense in a protest on July 16.
“It is imperative for black people to feel safer, so we are here marching today in support of Jennifer and neighbors like Jen and we want to spread the educational message that Black lives matter too,” said West Hempstead resident, Terrel Tuosto, 28, one of the protest organizers. “I want to shine a light on racism. A lot of people on Long Island think that racism doesn’t exist, just because oftentimes it’s covert racism that happens, and not overt racism.”
East Meadow resident, Michael Motamedian, another of the protest organizers, said he has helped organize over 50 different Black Lives Matter protests throughout Long Island.
“I’ve experienced unfortunate encounters with police for supporting Black Lives Matter,” he said. “I won’t stop representing the stance that I have.”
Through Friday’s protest, Motamedian said he hopes to make a change, while supporting McLeggan and people who have said that they have faced similar racial oppression in Valley Stream.
“We are trying to reach everyone from one to 100,” he said. “People who say that racism doesn’t exist are not well rounded, and we are not here to fight with them, but to educate them.”
McLeggan alleges that for more than three years since she moved into her home on Sapir Street she has suffered a variety of abuse from her neighbors, including litter and feces on her lawn and frequent visits by police and village code enforcement.
At a July 14 news conference, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder reported that between McLeggan and her next door neighbors police had been called to the homes roughly 45 times in what he described as an “ongoing dispute” between them.
He said that after the latest spat involving a dead squirrel found on McLeggan’s lawn police had taken statements from both parties and were investigating, although he said it did not appear that the dispute was racially motivated.
Many of Friday’s protestors who said that they also came to support the larger Black Lives Matter movement, also said that they hoped that the protest brought awareness about racism.
“I’ve had firsthand experiences with residential racism and racism in Valley Stream Schools,” said Valley Stream resident Andrea Neal who is black and who said that a cross was burned on her aunt’s lawn when she moved to Valley Stream 25 years ago. “Anyone who thinks racism doesn’t exist is delusional . . . sometimes racism is discouraging because I know my grandchildren might have to face it, but I do feel like I am doing my part by marching today.”