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Policing our Protests

News reports that cops are softening their approach to policing Trump protests

Posted on
May 10, 2017

Imagine a nation where you can be arrested for protesting the policies of the President. Well stop imagining things because it's here. Read this, we can't make this stuff up.

Suffolk police are taking a gentler approach with protesters, deploying officers to rallies wearing light blue “community policing” jackets that cover weapons and promising not to use crime scene tape to cordon off demonstrations.

Activists met with Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini and County Executive Steve Bellone in recent weeks and voiced concern that heavy police presence and the yellow tape feeds a narrative that protesters are dangerous.

“A lot of conservative media and conservative politicians are framing us as criminals,” said Cindy Morris, 38, a Stony Brook resident who formed the group Time2Care LI after November’s election. The changes, she said, “are part of making sure that we, protesters, are viewed as part of the democratic process, not criminals.”

Suffolk police want to “set a tone that is welcoming, not stifling, of First Amendment activity,” Sini said.

“The Suffolk County Police Department is the people’s Department, and we have an obligation to ensure that public demonstrations are done lawfully and peacefully,” he said in a statement.

Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers confirmed that some officers would wear blue jackets while others would be in their regular uniforms.

“There will be times when it’s more appropriate for public safety to also have uniformed officers. When and where we can deploy blue-jacket officers, we will make an effort to do so,” Meyers said.

Long Island has seen a surge in public protests by liberal groups since the election of Republican President Donald Trump.

Bellone reached out to activists after backlash against a proposed county law that would have charged a fee for protests and required police to be notified 60 days in advance of a gathering. Bellone’s administration quickly withdrew the bill and said the intent was not to target protests, but rather to target for-profit events.

Ruth Cohen, 78, a protester from Lake Grove, said the meetings with county leadership were productive.

She had complained of being joined by a dozen police officers as the lone protester outside a Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) event in February.

“It makes us look like we’re troublemakers to anyone driving by. The visuals were very bad for us,” she said.

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