People started to stream into the demonstration in front of the Nassau County Legislature and Executive Building in Mineola nearly an hour before the scheduled 5:30 p.m. start time. They had come to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Shouting “I can’t breathe” and brandishing handmade signs, they came 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.
“The murder of George Floyd was an unspeakable tragedy,” said Lakeview resident Scottie Coads, who is the chairwoman of the NAACP New York State Civic Engagement. “Sadly, police brutality against the black community is continuous and it’s an ever-present danger. We’re sick of it, it has to stop and we’re done dying.”
Coads said that while she did not plan on attending the demonstration, she had hoped that protesters would be peaceful. “George Floyd’s murder was a public execution,” said Hugh Wilson, of Lakeview. “Nothing is fair. I’ve known that, but now it’s in the public.”
“Stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters to end police brutality, mass incarceration and systemic racism,” reads a post by the Young Progressives of Nassau County on Facebook. Protesters were asked to wear masks. “Feel free to drive by in your car as well,” the Young Progressives’ post stated as well.
Indivisible of Nassau County, formerly Indivisible of Rockville Centre, also posted the announcement of the protest on its Facebook page.
According to both groups, among the other demonstration sponsors will be the Hempstead NAACP, Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP, the Nassau County chapter of the National Action Network, the Anti-Racism Project and Americans of Pakistani Heritage.
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.”
Andrew Nelson, of Uniondale, spoke at length about what Floyd’s death means to him personally. “It’s meant a lot, right, because a lot of injustices are being done. It’s unspeakable feelings,” he said. “I’ve witnessed so many murders of so many different people that look like me, and it hurts on a different level.”
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.