Anti-police brutality protesters again blocked traffic on local roadways Thursday as the latest in a week of demonstrations across Long Island ended peacefully with neither arrests nor injuries.
The biggest of several rallies Thursday came when a crowd estimated at more than 6,000 marched in Merrick in a show of force meant to rebuke a group of homeowners that had tried to block a smaller march earlier this week.
“No justice no peace!” the Black Lives Matters picketers chanted as the march stepped off from the Long Island Rail Road station in Merrick.
The march was the latest in dozens of recent rallies 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 in the death of George Floyd.
The latest Merrick protest marched from the LIRR station southbound on Merrick Avenue, westbound on Merrick Road into Bellmore, northbound on Bedford Avenue, and westbound on Sunrise Highway back to the Merrick LIRR station.
Video of the march showed Nassau County police formed a line at the corner of Merrick Road and Newbridge Road on the west side of Bellmore. But the protesters were ultimately allowed to pass and demonstrate through downtown Bellmore.
Later, about 500 marchers blocked the Southern State Parkway for about two hours.
“The Southern State Parkway was closed from the Meadowbrook State Parkway to the Wantagh State Parkway in both directions during the protest,” New York State Police said.
Nassau County police, Suffolk County police, and state police all report there were neither injuries nor arrests during the latest peaceful protests, despite yet another string of false internet rumors that agitators would use the demonstrations as a chance to riot and loot, as has happened elsewhere, triggering a week of curfews and clashes in New York City. Authorities have reminded Long Islanders not to be so easily duped by such baseless claims on social media.
Roadways that previous protests on LI have taken over include William Floyd Parkway and Sunrise Highway in Shirley, New York Avenue in Huntington, and Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton, among others.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the only incident was a small fire reported in a vehicle parked at the Merrick LIRR station late Thursday, but she said it was unclear if it was related to the protests and police are continuing the investigation into the cause of the fire. Police said the vehicle belonged to a protester.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the most dramatic thing he saw besides the march itself was a brief moment of tension.
“I walked every inch of that with every one of those protesters,” he said. “We had one woman down on Merrick Avenue who decided to challenge the tail end of the group. She got surrounded by a group of protesters at that point. I actually stepped in between. And then several protesters stepped between me and them and said, ‘no, we’re not gonna do that. We’re not doing that here’ and they pushed them back out. Antagonized by the woman that was behind them. Not by the protesters.”