Rumors that agitators at anti-police brutality protests on Long Island were throwing bricks into traffic and secretly placing bricks along march routes to start looting stores this week are untrue, Nassau and Suffolk county police said.
Unconfirmed reports that bricks were being thrown from bridges onto cars below Tuesday in Suffolk were later discredited. And Nassau police said that internet rumors of little yellow crosses on local road signs being part of a coordinated effort also amounted to little more than baseless fear mongering.
“We’ve received reports re: yellow crosses being painted on different objects throughout Nassau County,” Nassau police tweeted. “The message on social media is that they’re being used to I.D. locations where protesters should leave bricks and other items to commit acts of criminal mischief during protests. Current investigations have found that the yellow crosses and the words ‘Jesus Christ Is God’ have been observed for over a month and have NOTHING to do with the current protests.”
Thousands of people have been rallying in Nassau and Suffolk counties in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.
In Suffolk, the rumors went a step further and falsely claimed that bricks had actually been thrown.
“The Suffolk County Police Department is aware of posts circulating on social media reporting quantities of bricks and similar materials being left in various locations to be used by individuals to commit criminal acts,” the department said. “The SCPD has not received credible information about bricks being placed in Suffolk County for criminal acts.”
While protests sweeping the nation have in some places been hijacked by violent agitators that start riots and looting, like those that sparked a week of clashes and curfews in New York City, a week of rallies on LI have remained peaceful. The biggest local disruption to date has been demonstrators temporarily blocking traffic.
Officials suggested people think before they share false information on social media.
“What I’m concerned about…is outside influencers,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “People on social media changing flyers, putting frightening things up that turn out not to be true. People who don’t live in Nassau County, people who don’t care about Nassau County, but are perfectly happy to sprinkle bits of chaos here and there and then sit back and watch and see what happens. Don’t let them play you. Be skeptical. Just because it’s on social media does not mean that it’s true.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder agreed.
“People are stirring it up,” he said. “‘There’s bricks everywhere in Nassau County and ever town was looted,’ if you paid attention to all these social media. None of it happened.”
Ryder noted that social media rumors that bricks were left along Merrick Road in Merrick to incite riots were actually left there from a recent construction project. He noted shopkeepers had started hiding the bricks so the bricks wouldn’t be used as projectiles.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also expressed concern about how easily social media users are duped into believing misinformation that fuels chaos.
“It is right now incredibly easy for somebody to create chaos on social media on the internet from their basement with a computer and a keyboard,” he said, noting that police are investigating social media posts falsely claiming looting occurred in Suffolk. “We cannot go on like this where it is so easy to create havoc, to create chaos … by just posting things on social media that are not true.”