Holding signs declaring that Oyster Bay has made "standing while Hispanic" a crime, dozens of day laborers, activists and community organizers marched Tuesday morning and then rallied outside Town Hall to protest an ordinance they say unfairly targets day laborers looking for work.
The recently passed law, officially called Section 203-52 Town of Oyster Bay Ordinance, prohibits anyone soliciting work on a public road. It also prohibits drivers from stopping to accept a solicitation of employment. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $250. Town officials said public safety is at issue.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, one of the rally's sponsors, plans a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, according to the rally organizers.
Tuesday, protesters chanted "Si, se puede " - "Yes, we can" - as they walked along East Main Street in Oyster Bay hamlet.
Vladimir Pineda, 31, a hardwood floor worker from Glen Cove, said he often encounters abusive language from passersby when he walks around that city looking for work.
"They curse, they yell at me," Pineda said in Spanish, which was translated by a community organizer. "They don't want us to be on the street looking for work."
From Oyster Bay sidewalks and shops, onlookers had mixed reactions. "I think anything organized is perfectly acceptable," said Pat Spafford, owner of Periwinkle Catering Corp., in support of the day laborers.
Kathy Broach, a switchboard operator who works for the town, said she felt intimidated by groups of day laborers when she's on her lunch break.
"I walk past the people hanging out and they make gestures at me," said Broach, 45, of Bayville. "I'm totally in favor of the law."
More people joined the protest when it reached a gazebo outside Town Hall. Many chanted "Oyster Bay, shame on you" in earshot of a town board meeting.
Town Supervisor John Venditto told reporters that the ordinance is intended to protect day laborers as well as to respond to complaints from residents.
"It physically gets them [day laborers] out of harm's way," he said. "It's the objective of the Town of Oyster Bay to help with the plight of the day laborer." Later he added, "We're only asking that they assimilate."