After months without traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic, Long Island roads were briefly busy Sunday afternoon as hundreds of drivers drove together from Mineola to Hauppauge to protest police brutality.
The peaceful demonstration, which was organized by local chapters of the NAACP, was one of dozens that have fanned out across Long Island in recent days as outrage mounts over the recent killing of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man, by a white police officer.
“Enough is enough,” Tracey Edwards, the NAACP’s Long Island regional director, told the gathered crowd of motorists once they arrived at a Suffolk County government building in Hauppauge. “We are telling you here today that we are done dying.”
The convoy formed in Mineola early Sunday afternoon. Windshields were scrawled with messages denouncing racist police violence, and passengers waved signs out windows calling for legislative reforms. The large, diverse crowd included many families.
“Beep your horns, Black Lives Matter!” NAACP member Fred Brewington called out to the milling motorists waiting for the caravan to depart. A volley of honks followed.
Protesters then drove east together to Hauppauge, their hazard lights flashing, and eventually filled the parking lot outside the H. Lee Dennison Building.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, one of many speakers to address the crowd, said there have been more than 75 protests in the county since Floyd’s death — primarily peaceful.
“It is a credit to all of you and to everyone who has been out here across this county fighting for justice,” he said.
Other speakers, including government, faith and civic leaders, recited the names of African Americans who have been killed by police and implored those gathered to express their outrage by voting and holding elected leaders accountable.
A frequent target of derision was a New York State law, known as 50-a, that enables police departments to keep records on officer misconduct private. Those gathered joined a growing chorus of critics who have called for the law to be repealed.
The protesters tuned into the speeches on their car radios — another accommodation to the social distancing measures public health experts recommend to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further.
Attendees said they were encouraged by the large turnout. While protests against police misconduct are nothing new, those since Floyd’s death feel different, some said.
“Just seeing how George Floyd died is awakening the consciousness of America,” said Lavern Van, 60, of Uniondale.
Van attended the event with her husband.
“It seems like the voices are finally being heard,” she said. “We just want to add our voices to it.”
The signs of the ongoing pandemic were everywhere, with many protesters wearing masks and organizers wiping down the microphone between speakers.
Dominick Williams, 16 of Glen Cove, said the public health crisis should not delay the “fight for justice.”
“This is a first step to make our point known that we are tired of the disrespect and tired of the killings,” he said.