Updated: Long Islanders demanding the end of the shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic rallied Thursday in Commack.
A group called the Setauket Patriots sponsored the rally, with participants from around the Island waving American and Liberty flags, pro-President Trump signs and shouting against the shutdown, the possibility of a Covid-19 vaccine, and at the media. One group displayed a sign that read, “Hang Fauci. Hang Gates. Open all our states.”
Police officers from the SCPD Fourth Precinct put up barriers in front of the Macy’s parking lot to keep protesters away from Veterans Highway traffic.
News12 reporter Kevin Vesey was confronted by a woman wearing a bright pink shirt bearing a vulgar message and shouting through a bullhorn. She walked toward him, shouting through the bullhorn at him and as he continued to back away, others joined in, walking toward him and shouting. Soon they began shouting “Fake News!” in unison, and as he continued to back away, others joined in with different insults, calling him a communist, a coward, a pansy, and a liar.
Demonstrators had a mix of reasons for participating. One named Ron, from Rocky Point, said he simply wanted to support unemployed residents so they could get back to work. Millions of people have filed unemployment claims since states, including New York, shut down most businesses in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Another argued that if Walmart and Target stores could remain open, then Macy’s or other department stores should be allowed to as well.
Some shouted that the shutdown has led to suicides as people have lost their jobs or businesses.
Others had different concerns. Carol Bowker of Ronkonkoma said statistics that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provides every day about the number of cases and deaths were false, and said, “If I want to stay at home, that’s my decision.” She said that she’d read that people were being monitored by drones, and that if people were out in public now, they’d develop immunity to the virus. She and others predicted that those who’d obeyed the stay-at-home orders would be vulnerable to infection once the order is lifted.
Others said they weren’t going to be “sheeple,” that they were adults, affixed a sign quoting the First Amendment, or blamed China for the virus.
One man who was interviewed by a reporter about his opposition to vaccines declined to provide his name, adding, “You know what they do to people who oppose vaccines? They kill ’em.”
Many drivers passing by honked horns in support. One driver shouted “Cuomo, Cuomo” as he drove by and was answered with curses, while one person in the crowd shouted, “Go home to your mommy.”
Thursday night, the Setauket Patriots organization apologized to Vesey on Facebook, writing, “Kevin, The Setauket Patriots group, would like to apologize on how you were treated, as you know when our group first arrived by caravan, you had interviewed Us along with the 4th pct police inspector going over all the resources the police dept made available to us including extra masks for those who needed one for the Event. This wasn’t a Trump event but an Open up NY Rally and we invited all Long Islanders to attend. We can tell you that the few who decided to Harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affialiated with the Setauket patriots group in any way, shape or form. We were looking foward to you giving us fair coverage with what you documented when we first arrived. But as with all mass rally events you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful, pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by Police.”