The wave of protests sweeping the nation since the May 25 death of George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, have reached the East End of Long Island. Already, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Riverhead and Bridgehampton, with more protest gatherings scheduled for later this week.
On Thursday, there will be two events at Agawam Park on Jobs Lane in Southampton Village. The first, a community vigil, will be held at 10 AM, featuring many local clergy, according to a community bulletin from the Village of Southampton. The vigil was organized by Denise Smith, Juni Wingfield, and Pastor Leslie Duroseau of the Southampton Methodist Church. The theme is “Love is the Key.”
Later, a “Black Lives Matter” protest and march will be held, starting at Agawam Park at 5:30 PM. The march will go down Windmill Lane, Nugent Street, and Hampton Road, and end at Little Plains Road, according to the village. According to online information, protestors have been asked to wear dark and/or solid colors, preferably black hoodies, to show solidarity. Masks are required.
The village said the organizers, all of whom organized the protests in Riverhead on Sunday, “have strenuously promoted this as a ‘peaceful protest’ in which their ‘number one priority is safety,'” the village said. The organizers are Eric Williams and teenagers Auset Exum and Anubia Exum.
“We are advising residents, businesses, and visitors to be cognizant of these two events. We also remind anyone who is participating should adhere to COVID-19 guidelines including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. The Southampton Village Police and ancillary staff are prepared to assist both entities in attaining the goal of a safe and positive outcome,” the village statement said.
Those heading out east for the protest should be aware that one eastbound lane on Sunrise Highway will be closed in the vicinity of the Shinnecock Canal bridge on Thursday from 9 AM to 8 Pm for maintenance and bridge repairs. This is a single day closure.
On Friday, June 5, people will gather in Sag Harbor Village from 12 to 3 PM to march against police brutality and systemic injustice, according to a flyer on Facebook. “All are welcome, please be peaceful.” Brooke Canavan is organizing the march.
A demonstration is planned for the Hook Mill green on Sunday, June 7, from 2 to 5 PM. A flyer says that they will “stand in peaceful solidarity with the BLM movement and those across the county protesting police brutality in America.”
It also mentions that wearing a mask and social distancing is a must. The rain date is Monday, June 8.
Village Mayor Richard Lawler, a former law enforcement officer, said he is “both saddened and outraged at the murder of George Floyd. There is no reason, justification or excuse that can support such a senseless and abhorrent action. I pray for justice for George Floyd and his family and friends,” he said.
“This is not a time to incite more violence and injustice, but a time to make change. From the darkness of the death of George Floyd, we must all reach insides ourselves to find a light to show us the way to compassion and understanding for all lives. I want us all to support finding meaningful and peaceful ways to elicit change and be part of process that finally produces a world where no man, woman, or child fears living.”
East Hampton Town Board members discussed the upcoming demonstration during their meeting of June 2. Councilman Jeff Bragman said that he would be attending the rally in support of the protestors. Bragman referred to the African American author James Baldwin, saying that “even at the height of his achievements, the height of his fame, he realized that at any moment in time, if he made a mistake or turned down the wrong corner or said the wrong word, his life could be forfeited. That is a terrifying reality in America even today and that is what this latest homicide showed us.”
Bragman continued, “It is really about racism. It is the oldest, most pernicious problem.”
“I think that is something we all should be lending our voices to, and expressing our solidarity and support for,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.
The demonstrations across the country have been marred by occasional violence and looting, particularly during the overnight hours. It appears, however, that the criminal activity involved is being done by groups piggybacking on the protests. In Soho in New York City, for example, on the night of June 1, small organized groups were seen arriving in vans, carrying duffel bags, to carry the merchandise they stole from shops whose windows they had smashed, according to numerous press reports.
The demonstrations conducted thus far on the East End have all been peaceful.
Know of any other demonstrations being planned on the East End? Email us to let us know.
Karen Fredericks, Desirée Keegan, and T.E. McMorrow contributed reporting.