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Black Lives Matter protest draws 70 demonstrators to Merrick streets

Protesters march and demonstrate against police brutality in

Protesters march and demonstrate against police brutality in Merrick on June 26, 2020. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

About 70 protesters gathered in Merrick on Friday afternoon to continue their fight for justice in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We are here to be heard and we won’t give up. We are not going to stop. ... We want true justice for everyone,” said Ronnie Taylor, 24, of West Hempstead.

Taylor, who wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and hat, said demonstrators were promoting “unity” and “equality.”

Others at the protest, which began at a parking lot in a strip mall off Merrick Road, said they were there to fight against police brutality, citing the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose death in May at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer was caught on video. The images of an officer kneeing on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes sparked protests nationwide.

Organizers said the group planned to march to Bellmore and back, about a 5-mile trek round trip.

Chris McCain, 29, of Freeport, said, “Cops are doing too much right now” against people of color. When asked to specify, McCain said, “You see it on YouTube. White dudes will argue with cops and the cops will argue back. But if it’s a Black man, they won’t argue back, they’ll just empty their clip.”

Gerrod Barrett, 33 of Huntington, said protests were more than just a fight against police brutality. They also are a fight against systemic racism, he said.

“We are trying to make a change and fight a system that is already rigged. The system is rigged against us — what else are we supposed to do?”

Tiandre Tuosto, 25, of West Hempstead, an organizer, spoke with an officer who wore a Bureau of Special Operations polo shirt and whose gun was visible on his waistline.

The officer asked Tuosto if he would let him know the route protesters planned to take. The officer told Tuosto he wanted to keep demonstrators safe.

When asked about the exchange, Tuosto said, “I appreciate the police protecting and serving.”

Tuosto, and his brother, Terrel, 28, were both arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly blocking traffic after a June 12 protest in East Meadow.

Terrel Tuosto, before the group began marching late Wednesday afternoon, urged the crowd to remain peaceful even if they encounter people who disagree with them.

“We are a dignified people,” he said.

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