Long Islanders came out by the hundreds yesterday to show their solidarity with the Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrators who clashed with white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations over the weekend.
They lined both sides of a busy intersection at Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike in Huntington yesterday morning, chanting slogans such as “stand up, fight back” as drivers passing by honked and cheered enthusiastically.
One organizer, Ron Widelec, said that Saturday’s violence, in which one person was killed and 19 were injured after being hit by a driver and two Virginia troopers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the situation, could not be ignored. Being silent, he said, was not an option.
“We are outraged by what’s happening in Charlottesville, we are outraged by the normalization of white supremacy and white nationalism . . . ” Widelec said. “There is a difference between neo-Nazis and peace protesters who come out to resist them.”
At the Huntington rally, attendees hoisted American flags and signs with messages such as “you can’t be an American patriot and carry a Nazi flag.”
Many said that they were relatively new to protesting and had started to participate only after President Donald Trump was elected in November.
Lisa Wiley, 54, who came with her two sons to the rally, said the Charlottesville violence was similar to what her parents saw in the Jim Crow South.
“To see that come back was just appalling,” Wiley said. “Maybe we are seeing that we can’t take our progress for granted.”
Several vigils were planned for last night, including one near Morgan Memorial Park in Glen Cove and another in front of Heckscher Park in Huntington. About 100 people attended, holding candles and chanting that “hate has no home here.”
The Rev. Larry Jennings, president of the NAACP of Huntington, spoke at the vigil, which featured a moment of silence and a performance of “Amazing Grace” by Avalon Fenster, 15, daughter of the organizer.
“We still maintain that when it comes to racism and white supremacy, it’s not an issue of many sides. It’s an issue of being on the right or the wrong side,” Jennings said.
Centerport resident Eve Meltzer Krief, whose family members were killed during the Holocaust, addressed the Huntington crowd. She said that seeing the Nazi flag carried through the streets of an American city pained her heart.
“It frightens me because this is how it starts,” Meltzer Krief said. “How can America be silent on this? This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican one. This is an American one.”