Ronnie Taylor, of West Hempstead, speaks during a rally by...

Ronnie Taylor, of West Hempstead, speaks during a rally by the group Long Island Peaceful Protest in Mineola on Saturday. The group was protesting a Nassau County law that would allow police and first responders to sue for harassment when they face "discrimination." Credit: Howard Simmons

Pressure continued Saturday on Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to veto a bill that protesters at a Mineola rally said was an unconstitutional attack on their right to criticize the police, and police unions argued focused on physical attacks against the police.

The protest outside the building where on Monday the county Legislature approved the measure 12-6 was the latest of several. Curran, who has just over three weeks to sign or veto the bill, has asked state Attorney General Letitia James for "guidance."

There were 25 demonstrators at the rally organized by Long Island Peaceful Protest, but opposition to the bill includes the NAACP, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the LGBT Network and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

The bill allows the county attorney to file lawsuits on behalf of police and other first responders who seek financial damages for "discrimination" against them, and says there is an "irrebuttable presumption" that any harassment or injury is motivated by their job status. It levies fines of up to $25,000 for "discrimination," $50,000 if the offense occurs while someone is "participating in a riot."

Terrel Tuosto, co-founder of LI Peaceful Protest, said the proposal aimed to silence demonstrators, especially Black people who were fighting against police brutality and abuse.

"If you’re not on your best behavior, you could be sued and arrested, sued for money you don’t have," said Tuosto, 29, of West Hempstead.

Protesters already are intimidated when, such as on Saturday, a large phalanx of officers "stare down" demonstrators, said Eli Lefcowitz, 22, of Port Washington. The bill is designed to intimidate people even more, "making it harder and harder to voice your opinion," he said.

Ronnie Taylor, of West Hempstead, speaks during a rally by...

Ronnie Taylor, of West Hempstead, speaks during a rally by the group Long Island Peaceful Protest in Mineola on Saturday. The group was protesting a Nassau County law that would allow police and first responders to sue for harassment when they face "discrimination." Credit: Howard Simmons

The bill’s sponsor, Legis. Joshua Lafazan (I-Woodbury), said in a statement Saturday that "this legislation was not intended to silence anyone’s voice."

Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott said the bill punished physical acts against the police, not verbal opinions.

Brian Sullivan, president of the Nassau County Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said it "provides protection from people who are not peacefully protesting, people who are acting with lawless behavior, people who are actively threatening police officers, people that are assaulting, people that are menacing."

But, Tuosto asked, "What example of this have we seen here on the Island? Over 80-plus peaceful protests without any harm done to any police officers or any civilians."

Pamela Dols, 22, of Farmingdale, said "Their job is to protect us, not for them to be overprotected by the government from us. We are not trying to hurt them. We’re trying to help ourselves."

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