On the eve of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Bay Shore’s LGBT Network Center served as the backdrop for a call to action by progressive Long Islanders, many fearful the new administration will ignore them or be hostile to their concerns.
More than 150 people gathered Thursday in a parking lot outside the center for the event, billed by organizers as a “unity rally.”
The crowd spent two hours singing, chanting and listening to speakers talk of past struggles and future hopes for their communities and the country.
Many of the topics — from preserving the rights of immigrants, women, the LGBT community, and abortion rights advocates, to keeping health care and education affordable, are among the issues many said will be threatened by the new commander in chief.
“I am concerned that Trump’s victory has given an open license for hate,” LGBT Network chief executive David Kilmnick told the crowd. “We have to be the ones to set a different example. We have to work hard.”
Kilmnick said the aim of the event was to spread the word that his organization will fight for the rights for all, regardless of their ethnicity, citizenship status, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
More than a dozen speakers urged the crowd to demand their voices be heard by getting politically involved at the local and state levels or contacting their elected representatives.
Organizers led the crowd in chants of “My body, my choice, her body, her choice,” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.” Among the signs held up at the rally were: “I stand with Planned Parenthood” and “Hate has no home here.”
Hauppauge resident Michael Gendron, 53, a labor leader for Communications Workers of America Local 1108, waved an American flag as he waited for the rally to start.
“I have an expectation that all people will be treated equally and with respect, and that all people will have access to equal opportunity and equal possibilities,” Gendron said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. We all have the same concerns and interests. We all have families we’re trying to provide for.”
Zoee Davidson, of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, spoke of the work she does as a sexuality educator for local middle and high school students, teaching them appropriate conduct and ways to keep their bodies healthy.
“Our bodies and rights to these bodies are not up for grabs,” Davidson said to a cheering crowd.
Levittown resident Charlie Tiles, 19, a student at Nassau Community College studying special education, stood at the mic and told how he was bullied in high school after coming out as a transgender man. He said it wasn’t until he began attending events at the LGBT Network that he finally learned to accept himself for who he is.
“I still value the people who voted for Trump, even if they don’t care about me,” Tiles said after the event. “I want them to have their rights — just as I want to have my rights, too.”