Last week saw the largest gathering of people I can remember in my lifetime as a Mineola resident, who gathered in solidarity with other demonstrators across the country to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by officers of the Minneapolis Police Department. Unlike many of the spontaneous outbreaks of riots and looting in major cities, the organizers of the rally outside the Nassau Executive and Legislative Building were in open communication with local law enforcement, village and county representatives, and community organizations in preparing for the event. The result was a peaceful, emotional, and comparatively tame few hours that brought little interference to what was an otherwise normal Monday evening in our town.
Notably absent from the gathering were Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, nor any representatives from the Police Benevolent Association. Meanwhile, the Nassau County Police Department botched an opportunity to actively participate, and instead decided to present the exact type of militarized over-preparedness these gatherings are meant to oppose. Surveillance drones, rooftop observation stations, marked and unmarked patrol cars, and uniformed officers forming defensive lines like infantrymen hoping for a riot.
Among the overriding demands and calls to action these protests are bringing to our elected officials is that it’s time to put money where your mouths are. It’s not enough to grandstand about the need for reforms, or attempt to earn political points by catering to both sides. If one thing has been made clear from the complete unpreparedness of our county’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic this past spring that resulted in the 5th highest death rate of all U.S. counties, Nassau County needs to deprioritize funding for law enforcement and reinvest in our public health and social services infrastructure. Our community will be better off for it.