Black Lives Matter caravan goes from Bay Shore to Greenport
Cries of "Black Lives Matter" and "Power to the People" rang out in the parking lot of the Westfield South Shore mall in Bay Shore on Sunday.
There, a group of about two dozen protesters began a 60-mile trek to Greenport for the Strong Island Caravan For Justice.
The rally called for the end of all forms of racial discrimination and encouraged voting, organizers said.
"Our world is broken," said organizer Margarita Ferebee, 32, of Riverhead. "I’m full of different cultures in my own family and I can’t just sit here in silence. We put this together, we feel this is our calling."
The parade was expected to make stops in Patchogue, Shirley, Riverhead and Mattituck, picking up more participants at each point before ending with a candlelight vigil in Greenport.
Supporters honked in solidarity as the small multiracial rally got underway just outside a suburban J.C. Penney store.
"Black lives have not been honored in our country for many, many years," said Kyle Cranston, 67, of Southampton. "This is not a new fight. It’s the newest version of the old fight."
Cranston, who wrote Black Lives Matter on the hood of his car in marker, said it was important to be there because "I support human rights and democracy."
Rebecca Koszyk, a medical assistant from East Meadow, said she has been attending racial justice rallies since the summer.
"George Floyd really sparked something for me," she said.
The death of Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes, has sparked months of protests against police brutality on Long Island and across the country.
Riding in a car bearing a Biden/Harris flag, Koszyk said she thought it was important to elect someone who "acknowledges human rights, equality and simply does not support hate."
Driving with Koszyk was Robin Costa, 62, of Hempstead, whose car also displayed a "Fire the Liar" sign.
Costa noted her 12-year-old brother Raymond was killed in their Brentwood home during a 1978 fire her family believes was a racially motivated attack. No one was ever charged, she said.
"It [racial justice] has been a lifelong cause for me and my family," she said. "It still haunts my mother to this day and my mother is 93 years old."
The modest attendance of the caravan contrasted with recent pro-Trump rallies which have drawn thousands across Long Island in the past weeks. Smaller daily BLM rallies have also persisted in places like Coram and Shirley.
But event co-organizer Robert Ray, social justice director of the Riverhead-based African American Educational and Cultural Festival, noted that support for the cause could reverberate harder at the polls than on the streets.
"The Democratic Party is leading 3-1," he said, referencing early voting numbers on Long Island. "Republicans are known on Long Island for doing the MAGA parades, 15,000 people. What we did, we stayed put in our house while they were doing all these parades."
"But we voted and we voted early. And right now we’re winning Long Island."
Ray also stressed that Sunday’s event did not target all police officers, but organizers did aim to call out racial profiling and discrimination by law enforcement.
"We are not anti-police, I want to make that straight," Ray said. "We are anti-racist police."