In May, an eight-minute, 46-second video of a deadly police encounter in Minneapolis shook the world, igniting protests in every corner of the nation, including here on the East End.
George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
At least four demonstrations were held in Riverhead in May and June in response to Mr. Floyd’s death, as well as the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and other Black Americans killed in similar incidents.
Riverhead resident Eric Williams organized an anti-violence rally at Stotzky Park May 31, where over 100 people gathered. Later that day, hundreds more took to the streets for a march to Town Hall.
A similar demonstration was held June 13, when a group of protesters gathered along Route 58 carrying Black Lives Matter signs, pleading for justice and calling attention to systemic racism.
On Juneteenth, which was recognized as a holiday for the first time in New York this year, another large group of protesters marched on Main Street to speak out against inequality and police brutality.
In October, in response to a series of pro-Trump car parades held around Long Island, dozens of vehicles participated in a “Caravan for Justice” that traveled from Bay Shore to Greenport.
While the protests have slowed, the demonstrations led to a racial reckoning and reforms to the justice system.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that repealed 50-a, a law that shields officers’ disciplinary records from being made public, bans police use of chokeholds and makes it a civil rights violation to make false, race-based 911 calls.
“This is not just about Mr. Floyd’s murder,” Mr. Cuomo said as he signed the legislation in June. “It’s about being here before. Many, many times before. Today is about ‘enough is enough.’ ”
The governor has also mandated that police departments statewide develop plans that address use of force, implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, restorative justice and other issues raised by the community. Reform initiatives are currently underway in both Riverhead and Southold towns.