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Long Beach, Nassau police disperse nighttime crowd on beach

A crowd of up to 800 people gathered on the beach and boardwalk in Long Beach late Saturday, most of them not social distancing or wearing masks. Newsday's Steve Langford on Sunday spoke with people about their reactions, most of which were negative. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman; Howard Schnapp, Jim Staubitser

Long Beach and Nassau County police dispersed a crowd of up to 800 people gathered on the beach and boardwalk in Long Beach late Saturday after receiving reports of loud music, open alcohol use and scuffles between the young congregants.

No one was hurt or arrested, said acting Long Beach Police Commissioner Philip L. Ragona, who added that the city has seen several similar incidents in recent months while young people search for places to gather as coronavirus-related restrictions lift. He said they engage in “sunset watching,” an activity that young people learn about through social media.

The incident sparked Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to renew calls for area residents to practice social distancing.

Uniformed Long Beach police officers moved in at about 9:45 p.m. Saturday and encouraged the teenagers and young adults, many of whom were caught on video without masks or observing social distancing, to leave the area.

Ragona said there were reports of some fights and lots of alcohol use and that some people resisted the officers’ commands.

“They were very combative,” Ragona said, adding that bottles were thrown at police cars and some of the vehicles were circled by the young people, who ranged in age from the late teens to early twenties. “So, we had to call in assistance of the Nassau County Police Department.”

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Police used loudspeakers to direct the crowd and some officers walked among them and waved them away from the beach and boardwalk. Ragona said the crowd was dispersed by about 12:15 a.m.

The large gathering, officials said, threatens the progress that Long Island has made in stemming the threat of coronavirus and allowing the region to enter Phase 4, where Long Islanders enjoy greater freedom of movement because local cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have dropped.

“We simply cannot afford another major resurgence of COVID-19 on Long Island,” Curran said in a statement. “I urge residents of all ages to use their common sense and think twice before disregarding the very real threat COVID continues to pose to all of us. We will get through this, but it can only be done together.”

Long Beach spokesman John McNally said the city does not comment on active police investigations and City Council members could not be reached for comment.

Nassau County police referred all questions about the incident to Long Beach police.

Ragona said police are investigating whether to file charges or issue summonses against any of the participants and that they are keeping an eye on the gatherings.

“It seems to be a trend,” he said of the gatherings. “And we are certainly following it very closely and trying to get out in front of it.”

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