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Top Stories 2016: Black Lives Matter-inspired protest takes place downtown

Black Lives Matter in Riverhead

More than 100 demonstrators held signs and chanted phrases like “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “No justice, no peace” and “Black lives matter” during a July 10 protest on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead.

The grassroots effort was organized by Vanessa Vascez-Corleone of Riverhead, who said she felt, based on what she’d observed on social media, that local residents were ready to speak out against the perceived mistreatment of young black men by law enforcement. The protest was organized following the death of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, La.

Ms. Vascez-Corleone said she organized a similar demonstration in response to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, but that only 10 or so people showed up. This time, she was supported by more than 100 protestors — about 80 percent of whom were black — who spent more than two hours straddling the Riverhead and Southampton town border on Peconic Avenue before marching to Riverhead Town Hall on Howell Avenue.

Fellow organizer Darnesha Miles said the march was intended to show Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter — who had asked the group to postpone their demonstration for two weeks — that it would be peaceful. No incidents were reported.

When reached by telephone about the event, the supervisor declined comment.

Ms. Vascez-Corleone said she was pleased with the protest’s turnout and the way many passersby offered support in the way of peace signs, fist pumps and words of encouragement.

File photo: Willie Jenkins of Bridgehampton addresses protesters who marched to Riverhead Town Hall. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)