Tensions boiled over at two of the many racial justice protests this weekend on Long Island, which have been largely peaceful for the past week.
Eleven protesters were arrested Saturday in Merrick and two Nassau County police officers were injured while making those arrests. And two protesters were injured Sunday at another march in Smithtown, authorities said.
“A few people were pushing the envelope,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said of the arrests, noting that most of the protesters were peaceful.
The protests were some of dozens held locally this week 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.
Marchers have descended upon Merrick daily after a group of homeowners tried to block Black Lives Matter protesters Tuesday. On Thursday, a group of 500 protesters marched onto the Southern State Parkway, forcing police to divert traffic. But when a group tried to march onto the Meadowbrook State Parkway on Saturday, Nassau police blocked the protesters, citing dangerous wet road conditions following rain that day.
Nassau officials said the 11 people arrested were urging a subset of 250 protesters that broke off from the larger peaceful group to march onto the parkway. Authorities neither released their names of those arrested nor the charges they are facing. They were only identified as 10 Nassau residents and one Suffolk resident, including 10 adults and one juvenile.
None of the Merrick protesters were injured, authorities said. Two Nassau officers were injured while making the arrests, including a sergeant who required surgery after suffering a broken ankle and an officer who has a bruised nose and scratched cornea from being punched in the face, officials said.
“Violence against police will not be tolerated,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, adding that she spoke with both officers and reported that they are in good spirits.
Protests this weekend included rallies in Farmingdale, Westbury, Manhasset, Mineola, Garden City, East Meadow, Great Neck, Port Washington, Freeport, Uniondale, Levittown, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Glen Cove, Hicksville, Rockville Centre, Massapequa, Stony Brook, Selden, Huntington, East Hampton, and Hauppauge.
Despite internet rumors that outside agitators planned to use bricks to hijack the protests to spark riots and looting, as has happened elsewhere, the biggest disruption to date on LI has been road closures caused by mostly peaceful marches.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said a protester was injured in Smithtown when he was punched during a rally in Smithtown, where a number of counter protesters gathered to oppose the march. A police spokesman said two people reported injuries in Smithtown. Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident.
“We take hate crimes very seriously,” he said, although Bellone and police declined to discuss the case further, citing the ongoing investigation.