Dozens of people came together during the hottest day of the year to peacefully rally against racism, police brutality and to unite in support of Black lives.
On July 19, a group of mostly Islip residents marched from the Saxon Ave. intersection down to Islip Town Hall during a summer heatwave.
Chants like “I can’t breathe,” “Get your knee off my neck,” and “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter,” rang through Montauk Highway and Main Street.
During the protest, many supporters honked in support of the demonstrators.
There were also a few who expressed disapproval for the marchers.
Noah Penn and Joe Tronolone, the organizers of the event, started the demonstration off with speeches about the importance of protesting and highlighting other issues within the Islip community.
Penn said as a White man, he will never know the struggles Black people face daily.
“There’s no possible way that I can understand the pain and the anger and the frustration that you go through on a daily basis,” he said. “I am a White man who has grown up in a completely different way and I have all the privileges of being a white man.”
However, Penn said he will commit to listening to black voices, educating himself, acknowledging racial injustices around the country, and using his privilege for good.
“But what I can say to you, unequivocally, today, I will listen to you, I will learn from you, I will stand with you, I will walk with you, and I will fight for you,” Penn said.
Penn also touched on various peaceful protests that have happened across Long Island, and how many have been met with hate, racial slurs, in some cases, violence from white aggressors.
“One of the protestors was attacked and assaulted by a group of White supremacists,” he said. “And at first, I was very taken back, but then when I thought about it a little more, I said to myself well look, this is Long Island, this is how it is.”
Penn talked about Long Island being one of the most segregated places in the country. He mentioned the investigative report Newsday published last year about discriminatory practices in housing on Long Island.
The island has a long history of racism, and Penn said nothing has changed.
“This is Long Island in 2020, and this has been going on for generations,” he said. “So we are gathered here today in unity and solidarity to say that enough is enough and we will not stand for it anymore and we will break those barriers down.”
A representative from Central Islip Connects For Change, Jasmine, spoke about her organization’s mission to promote positive change, education, and advocacy in Central Islip.
“Together we can promote change,” she said. “We know that it’s not just a Black thing, it’s a community thing, it’s an American struggle.”
Tronolone said as a life-long resident of Islip, he said demonstrations like the one he and Penn organized are necessary in the town. Many residents have expressed their disapproval for the Black Lives Matter protests on social media.
“The reactions to the protests really has been a toxic and negative one,” he said. “So, it’s great that we have a nice turnout — we are really going to show the people in this town that hate doesn’t have a home here.”
Mary Jones, a 20-year-old Shirley resident, came out to Islip to protest and has continued to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. She led many of the chants at the protest.
“We’re here, the youth is strong, and we will be the change because we don’t play,” Jones said. “I can’t see another Black man die, I can’t live with the injustice, I can’t live with the corrupt system.”
The peaceful march ended at the Islip Town Hall, where demonstrators took part in a moment for silence for the late Representative John Lewis, as well for black people killed by police — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and many others.
Tronolone said he was pleased by the turnout, especially since Islip leans towards more of the conservative side.
Penn said he appreciated the number of people who came out to rally behind this cause on a hot summer day.
“Islip is not known for its diversity, so when you draw crowds and walk through predominantly white towns, that makes a statement,” he said. “There are people around here that stand with the Black and Brown communities, and that’s the message we hope to bring.”
Penn and Tronolone said they hope to organize more protests in the future. This was Penn’s “first crack” at organizing a demonstration, but he said he hopes that their march inspires others to get involved.
Tronolone said it’s important to keep the movement going and not give into distractions from the opposing side. He emphasized the importance of voting and putting more “sympathetic” people in office — on a local, state, and federal level — in order to have these concerns heard.
“For the future, we hope to keep the pressure up, don’t let these fizzle out, as movements tend to do” Tronolone said. “This way we could actually get the fundamental reforms that are desperately needed.”
“We just really want to keep these feelings of outrage going until meaningful change is put through.”
Below are photos from Sunday’s peaceful march. Click all the boxes to see them all.