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Black Lives Matter rally in Center on Sunday: Town Board signs off on peaceful protest

After marches and rallies in communities large and small across the country protesting police brutality, Shelter Island is getting its turn.

Three high school seniors who will graduate later this month — Emma Gallagher, Abby Kotula and Henry Binder — went before a virtual meeting of the Town Board’s work session on Tuesday to apply for a permit to hold a rally and march on Sunday.

After listening to their plans, the board unanimously approved the application.

Ms. Gallagher, who is leading the effort, had consulted with Police Chief Jim Read, Supervisor of Schools Brian Doelger, Ed.D., and board members before the work session. The idea, Ms. Gallagher said, is to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement with a peaceful protest, noting that violence will not be tolerated.

She emphasized that the school itself has not helped initiate, organize, or execute this event.

The rally is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start on Sunday, June 14, to “honor those who have lost their lives due to police brutality, express our support for the black people in our community, across America and around the globe,” Ms. Gallagher said.

It will kick off on School Street with speakers addressing the crowd and then proceed down to the firehouse on Route 114, circle back to the Legion Hall and then move on to Police Department headquarters. The plan is to observe silence in front of the building for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the exact time a Minneapolis Police Officer, while making an arrest, kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he died. People will be invited to either lie down, kneel or stand, Ms. Gallagher said. Then the rally will march back to the front of the school for final thoughts from speakers, and is scheduled to wrap up about 3 p.m.

“This is important to the youth of Shelter Island,” Ms. Kotula said. Mr. Binder added that “people are longing for action [on the issue] on Shelter Island.”

Chief Read said the area of Route 114 will be closed for the rally. After a cautionary note from Councilman Jim Colligan about the possibility of counter protesters expressing their 1st Amendment rights, Supervisor Gerry Siller said the town was taking the possibility “very seriously.”

Chief Read said his department will be a “neutral participant” and his job is to “protect life and property.”

Councilman Mike Bebon who, along with his colleagues, applauded the student’s plans and asked that they “think beyond the demonstration. Don’t let it end with one protest, but keep the dialogue going.”

Parking will be available in the school lot and overflow parking will be on the school field. There are plans to have a voter registration table and a table for information on filling out the 2020. census.

The rally and march will proceed in light rain, the organizers said, but in the event of a thunderstorm, it will be postponed and take place the following day.

Food truck(s)

Ashley Knight and Chris Chobar applied for an application to open a second food truck — their first opened at Crescent Beach this past weekend — at Wades Beach. It will be in a far corner of the parking lot, taking up two spaces, they said, and will be identical to the first food truck, selling snacks and lunches and following strict protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Consider this an unofficial/official” approval, Mr. Siller said. The final go-ahead will be by resolution at the next regular Town Board meeting.

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said she was concerned about the “commercialization” of the town beaches. She agreed to permit the Islander’s food trucks because there were special circumstances now with the pandemic. Mr. Siller agreed and said that that was a “discussion for the fall.”

With Gov. Cuomo allowing outside dining at restaurants this week, the town will follow state and Suffolk County regulations, Ms. Brach-Williams said. Businesses — there are 25 on the Island, she said, from those selling ice cream to full-scale restaurants — must register with the state that they are seating guests outside.

A letter provided to the Reporter by Ms. Brach-Williams from the state says: “Outdoor seating must meet Fire Code standards, including points of egress, access to fire extinguishers, and tent and awning ratings, if applicable. Seating shall not block entrances, exits, fire lanes, hydrants, sprinkler connection points, drive aisles, back-up areas, and pedestrian or handicapped access. Outdoor seating must have barriers to protect seating areas from parking/driving areas. Face masks must be accessible and provided by the establishment to anyone who wants them and hand sanitizers should be available at several locations within the establishment.”

Mapping preservation

Councilman Albert Dickson said the Community Preservation Advisory Board (CPF) has created a map of all preserved land on the Island. The Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the CPF to fund the production of the maps, which will be distributed to businesses and available at Town Hall.

Mr. Siller noted that ideas are being considered to have a kiosk somewhere in the Center to provide information on the Island’s preserved properties.