This story was reported by Catherine Carrera, David Olson, Daysi Calavia-Robertson and Dandan Zou. It was written by Carrera.
Across Long Island, on a crisp fall Saturday, activists gathered — some to discuss community needs and others to rally for police officers and President Donald Trump — signaling that the energy from summer protests hasn't completely waned.
More than 200 people walked through Franklin Square for about a half-hour Saturday afternoon to show their support for the police, with many hoisting U.S. or "thin blue line" flags and residents giving thumbs-up signs from their stoops.
"Without the police, you have chaos," said Gary Bonetti, 56, of Massapequa.
Referring to protests at which participants have condemned the police, Bonetti said, "I think it’s terrible for the police to see people saying they want to defund them and calling them pigs. It’s important for the police to see a lot of people support them."
Ralph Baratto, 60, a retired NYPD officer who had worked in Brooklyn's East New York neighborhood, said "all police officers have to suffer" for incidents like the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a police officer pressed his knee on the man's neck for about eight minutes.
"Ninety-nine percent of the police force is professional and wants to protect the people of New York," the Franklin Square resident said. "That’s why I became a police officer. I wanted to help the community."
Chris Howard, 35, who organized the event with fellow Franklin Square resident Joe Block, 35, said too much focus has been on "a couple of bad apples."
"They get blind, and they get focused on that one thing, and everything else gets lost," Howard said. "People are attracted to negativity. So that resonates with people. We need to bring positive actions into light. This way, people forget about the negativity. That can be dealt with through our judicial system, the way it should be."
Jake Vitale, 15, of Franklin Square, who marched with his parents, said police officers need to see that residents like him support them.
"I see on the news all this stuff — anti-police, defund the police," Vitale said. "It really gets me mad. All they’re doing is going out and trying to protect us and then they get met with such hatred. I want to try to counter that hatred."
Meanwhile, about 10 miles away, the upbeat rhythms of reggae music and the fresh aroma of hot dogs and burgers sizzling on the grill filled the air at a community cookout at Freeport’s Northeast Park.
The free event hosted by LI Peaceful Protest — an activism group founded by brothers, Terrel Tuosto, 28, and Tiandre Tuosto, 26, both of West Hempstead — drew about 30 people, many participating in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament also organized by the group.
Over the last few months, LI Peaceful Protest has organized dozens of marches in towns across Long Island demanding justice for police brutality and advocating for racial equity. The group has amassed a following of more than 3,000 on Instagram.
The Saturday event, where mask wearing was required, is one of a series of monthly gatherings planned by the group, said team member Erin Biener, 39, of Levittown.
Group organizers recently held a diversity book drive for New Visions Elementary School on Raynor Street and a school supply drive for Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit with a food pantry in Freeport, she said.
"We’re hosting events geared towards different demographics," Biener said. "The idea is to bring the community together and find out what the needs are ... How [can] we as a group transcend protesting and help the community? What can our numbers do to help residents?"
Over in Suffolk County, in the parking lot of a shuttered Macy’s in Commack, about 100 people participated in a "MAGA-Palooza caravan," supporting President Donald Trump on Saturday morning. Some attendees wore masks, while others didn't.
"We’re gathering en masse to support our president because he’s one of the best presidents the United States has seen," said Sean O'Connor, founder of The Huntington/Northport Patriots. O'Connor organized the event, which drew more than 75 cars. Some participants displayed photos of first lady Melania Trump on their cars and others waved "Trump 2020" flags.
The gathering came a day after the White House said the president and first lady had contracted the coronavirus, which led some supporters to wish them well on their recovery holding signs that read, "Get Well President!"
"That’s first and foremost, he needs to take care of himself and get better so he can keep fighting for our country," O'Connor said.
Linda Scalfani, of Melville, wore a mask while speaking just feet away from a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump.
"I think it’s a personal preference," she said of mask wearing. "But my message to Trump is to get well soon because we’re standing behind you one hundred percent and the country needs you."