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Roger Waters concert at Nassau Coliseum draws protests

Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Jewish groups and local residents

Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Jewish groups and local residents on Sept. 15, 2017, protest against ex-Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters' concert at Nassau Coliseum, accusing the artist of being anti-Semitic. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Town of Hempstead lawmakers, religious leaders and Jewish students protested Friday in front of the renovated Nassau Coliseum against Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters’ scheduled concerts at the arena on that night and Saturday.

Waters backs the movement to boycott Israeli goods and services and his concerts often feature visuals such a flying pig emblazoned with a Star of David and a dollar sign.

At a news conference, students from Rambam Mesivta, a private Jewish high school in Lawrence, and Hebrew Academy of Nassau County held signs denouncing Waters and chanting for the guitarist to “stop the lies; stop the hate.”

“He’s a bigot, an anti-Semite and a real bad guy,” said Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who led the protest.

County Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), sponsor of a law that prohibits companies from doing business with the county if they boycotted or divested from Israeli businesses or supported sanctions against Israel, said Waters should not be allowed to perform at a county-run building.

“It is just plain wrong that a platform and a microphone will be afforded to an anti-Semite,” Kopel said.

The county’s law is aimed at backers of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which works to end international support for what it characterizes as Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

In July, County Attorney Carnell Foskey threatened to take “appropriate legal action” against Nassau Events Center, the Brooklyn-based operator of the Coliseum, if Waters’ concerts took place. Foskey this week said the concerts would go on as planned.

Jeff Gewirtz, chief legal and administrative officer at NEC, said Waters’ opinions are protected speech and the concerts do not violate the county law.

Waters defended his support for “Palestinian human rights” and in an Op-Ed in The New York Times this month threatened to “have our day in court” if the shows were canceled.

Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman of Rambam Mesivta, said he has contacted an attorney who might file suit against the county. He notes that the arena “was paid by taxpayers; and even the police force and fire protection to protect this venue was paid by the county.”

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) has written to County Executive Edward Mangano arguing that profits from the show should go to groups that promote Middle East peace.

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