Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart issues new rules Wednesday for protests, citing the need to protect both demonstrators and the general public.
The goal, the department said, was to provide a safe path for protesters to walk and congregate, enable a safe flow of traffic for motorists and assure greater access for emergency response vehicles to navigate the protest route.
“The department has had a presence at more than 165 protests and remain committed to protecting the public’s First Amendment right while continuing to keep the public safe,” Hart said. “We continue to work with organizers of protests to ensure the safety of demonstrators, the public and our officers.”
The issuance follows Monday night’s incident where a driver struck two Black Lives Matter protesters in the roadway on Broadway in Huntington Station. Police said the driver fled but was stopped nearby and now faces charges of third-degree assault. In addition, as the economy reopens, streets once relatively empty of vehicles are expected to start drawing more traffic.
The new rules include:
· Demonstration organizers should contact the Suffolk County Police Department at least 24 hours in advance to identify their routes by calling 631-852-6110 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. to allow the police department to provide adequate protection.
· To promote the free flow of traffic on public streets and to protect motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, individuals must refrain from congregating in the street and not disrupt traffic and endanger public safety.
· Any person who fails to comply with a lawful order to stop impeding the flow of traffic on public roadways may be subject to enforcement action.
· Demonstrators may not block vehicular or pedestrian traffic and may not enter private property without the owner’s consent.
· Demonstrators may not walk in the traffic lanes of a roadway when prohibited.
· Pursuant to the New York State Executive Order, any individual who is older than 2 and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to do so when in a public place and unable to maintain six feet of social distance.
At least 10 Black Lives Matter demonstrations or marches have occurred in Huntington since nationwide protests broke out after the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Huntington’s marches have been peaceful, most starting at the Big H center and moving to the downtown area, though others have left from Greenlawn and marched to the Second Precinct stationhouse.
One such march led restaurateur Luigi Petrone to post a video on Facebook disparaging the marchers as “animals and savages” and warning that he was prepared to throw watermelons at them. That led to demonstrations outside his restaurant, which had been boarded up overnight, and a second restaurant belonging to a man who accompanied Petrone in the video, but did not say anything. He later apologized.
Other recent demonstrations in town, which occurred on sidewalks or a parking lot, have involved people demanding the reopening of businesses and complaints about taxes. In recent years, many demonstrations have occurred at the intersection of Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike, involving abortion opponents, gun rights supporters and immigrant rights.