In a town just over 16,000, there were over 3.500 attendees at a Black Lives Matter protest against racism march on Sunday, June 7. Many locals were in attendance and often brought friends from …
In a town just over 16,000, there were over 3,500 attendees at a Black Lives Matter protest against racism march on Sunday, June 7. Many locals were in attendance and often brought friends from outside the neighborhood who wanted to support the cause.
By 12:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the event was set to start, there were already over 1,500 people in attendance in the jam-packed Common Ground park, so much so that protestors spilled out on the neighboring streets. Homemade signs enforcing the Black Lives Matter initiative to stomp out racism, particularly with police enforcement were abundant as well as LGBT solidarity with the black community.
What was an overwhelmingly peaceful protest (with no arrests made) and quite a number of homeowners coming out in support of the march as the crowd moved down posh Candee Avenue had met some backlash online.
In the most prominent threat, Commissioner Christopher Bailey of the Sayville Fire Department commented, “bring it, [expletive]” accompanied with a photo of firearms on a Facebook post about the protest. The Sayville Fire Department did not comment, but eventually posted a message on their website condemning the actions of Bailey, but alternately citing the first amendment as his right to make threats.
On June 5, the Sayville Fire Department said on their official Facebook account that, following “an emergency meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Sayville Fire District, the Board voted to immediately remove Commissioner Christopher Bailey as Chairman of the Board, as well as request his resignation as Commissioner.”
In another Facebook post, a local Bayport photographer tagged seventy community members in a call to arms about the protest needing protection against property damage and violence saying, “Sometimes men have to answer the call to ensure the safety and well-being of family and friends. That time has come.”
The post went on to say that retired law enforcement in the community was organizing a posse to ensure safety from what was deemed an unwelcome element of rioters and looters somehow invited by the protest itself.
Indeed, during the protest there was a small group of people, comprised mostly of middle-aged men, who sat on the sides along the fence lining the baseball fields. When asked for comment, they replied they “were watching to see what happens” and accused The Suffolk County News of harassment when pressed further for clarification.
Screenshots of the two organizers, both college students who had graduated from Sayville High School, Shaina Garrett and Jack Wilkens, were circulated on Facebook with the caption, “should be held accountable if things go bad.”
Garrett and Wilkens said they both anticipated the backlash, but were determined to give black people a voice in Sayville, a town that is nearly 95 percent white, based on numbers provided by the US Census.
“We don’t know what it means to be black and Sayville is predominantly white, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue on the forefront of people’s minds,” said Wilkens.
At the start of the march, in the Pamela Raymond Pavilion, the crowd of thousands was brought to a marked silence with only the sound of police sirens in the background and raised right arms and bowed heads in solidarity to the murder of George Floyd.
Phil Young, a black man and Sayville business owner led the crowd through an impassioned speech with Garrett and Wilkens operating the megaphone and holding his prepared statement in a stark image of white organizers literally creating a platform for black voices.
“The days leading up to this day have been very stressful, for the organizers and the business owners who have the courage to stand with us here today…you’ve all made a conscious decision to stand up to institutionalized racism and come to face of scare tactics made…our business is located near the Fire Island Ferry Terminal and our local business has flourished under the patronage of the LGBT community, I believe if our LGBT allies knew the racism here they would take their business elsewhere and the town would feel significant financial tension,” said Young who received raucous applause for his depiction and thanks to the community that had chosen to make a stand against racism.
A march through south Sayville took place where marchers went down Candee Avenue and came back up to the Common Ground on Foster Avenue. Along the way homeowners stood outside with sides in support of the protestors and some even offering water and other refreshments.
Earlier in the day, several local businesses had donated hundreds of bottles of water, Gatorade, and chip bags. Justin Twining donated over a dozen buckets of Sayville purple and yellow colored flowers for protestors to display in community solidarity.
At the end of the march, protestors took a knee to solidify their commitment to fight against systemic racism and a resource packet was given out with tools to understand white privilege, repeal 50a, and eradicate racism built into the community.