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Hundreds rally in Port Jefferson Station in support of police

A rally was held in Port Jefferson Station on Monday to show support for police while backers of Black Lives Matter gathered in Smithtown.  Credit: Raychel Brightman & Kendall Rodriguez

Waving flags and placards with slogans such as "Back the Blue," hundreds rallied in Port Jefferson Station on Monday in support of police following weeks of what they called anti-cop sentiment stirred by allegations of police brutality.

The crowd of 400 to 500 —  few of them wearing face masks or practicing social distancing — lined Route 347 near the intersection with Route 112, where a Black Lives Matter protest was held exactly three weeks earlier. Dozens of passing cars and trucks blared their horns in apparent support of the pro-cop rally.

Speakers at Monday's gathering decried what they called chaos and an atmosphere of anti-law enforcement fervor in the four weeks since a black man, George Floyd, died after being pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. Four Minneapolis cops face murder and other charges in connection with the incident.

Rally organizer Jonathan Stuart of Manorville lauded police for displaying everyday acts of heroism even as they face criticism and allegations of racism.

"We know your job is tough," said Stuart, 29, a gym owner. "We know you have all Americans' backs, and we have yours. ... Standing up here is hard, being here is hard, but we are doing what must be done."

The rally followed weeks of dozens of Black Lives Matter protests across Long Island, most of them peaceful with relatively few arrests. Like the June 1 Black Lives Matter protest in Port Jefferson Station, Monday's rally was boisterous but nonconfrontational.

Participants waved American flags and black-and-white flags with blue stripes symbolizing the Blue Lives Matter movement. Some wore or carried hats, shirts, placards and flags showing support for President Donald Trump. One speaker led the crowd in a chant of "Trump, Trump, Trump."

Former Suffolk County Republican Party chairman John Jay LaValle, introduced to the crowd as a Trump spokesman, criticized "lawlessness" and called on Suffolk residents to support police.

"The stuff we've been hearing about in the news has been absolutely crazy," he said. "We stand behind law enforcement to protect our families."

Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo told the gathering he had been skeptical that the rally would draw many people amid what he called an "atmosphere where there is so much anti-police sentiment."

Looking out at the large crowd, he said, "Thank you for proving me wrong. ... I'm so glad to be here in Suffolk County, where the majority of people love their law enforcement."

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