A coalition of community, religious and advocacy groups plan a “Day of Action” rally and march Sunday in Amityville, culminating in a town-hall meeting at a local church, to express their frustrations over law enforcement treatment of minority communities and residents.
The grassroots activism is the first large organized demonstration on Long Island after a Staten Island grand jury this week declined to indict a white police officer in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was black. Police officers’ takedown of Garner on July 17 was recorded on a cellphone camera.
In the days since the grand jury report was returned, thousands have demonstrated in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta and other cities across the country. The development in the Garner case also came just days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, declined to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.
Sunday’s rally is to begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Amityville Long Island Rail Road station, followed by a mile-long march to Holy Trinity Baptist Church at 300 Albany Ave. The town-hall meeting in the church is scheduled at 3 p.m.
About 200 people are expected, organizers said, for a peaceful demonstration.
Suffolk County police said they were in contact with organizers about their plans.
“We don’t anticipate any problems,” said Inspector Gerard Gigante of the First Precinct, citing previous rallies in recent days that were peaceful.
While the groups do not have a permit for the march, Suffolk’s Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said, “the permit issue is not going to be a problem . . . We’re not going to let that interfere with their First Amendment rights.”
Amityville was chosen for its central location, so people from Nassau and Suffolk counties can participate, said Walter Barrientos, lead Long Island organizer for Make the Road New York, one of about 30 organizations involved in the event.
“We felt policing issues and police relations with the [minority] community are major issues in Nassau and Suffolk counties,” Barrientos said. He pointed to alleged discrimination of Latinos by former Suffolk police Sgt. Scott A. Greene, who was indicted on multiple hate-crime charges accusing him of targeting Latinos and taking cash from them during traffic stops. Greene, who retired from the force in the spring, has pleaded not guilty.
Jason Starr, director of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the ultimate goal of Long Island’s “Day of Action” is about “creating a plan” to press for better policing in minority communities.
“We see excessive policing in minority communities,” Starr said, as well as a “lack of understanding when it comes to dealing with immigrant communities, and a lack of oversight and accountability.”
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