By RICK CHALIFOUX AND NICOLE ALLEGREZZA
SUFFOLK COUNTY—Last Thursday, thousands gathered along the streets of Patchogue to express their differing views on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who came into town to deliver a speech at the nearby Emporium.
Both protesters and supporters crossed paths and formed their own respective rallies to make their voices heard. Here is what they had to say:
Early on, a group of Trump supporters gathered along Main Street and explained why they felt he should be the next president.
“We need a fresh face,” said Patchogue resident Robert Force. “Someone who can get in here and clean up the government who isn’t tied to lobbyists. We want Trump to stay good to his word and do what’s right. Close the borders, bring jobs back, and take care of the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).”
Brookhaven resident Anthony Frontino emphasized that their desire to close the borders was not rooted in racism.
“It’s about the American way and doing what’s right and fair,” said Frontino. “[Allowing illegal immigration] isn’t fair to those who are willing to do it the right way.”
Down the street, another group of Trump supporters gave their views at the corner of the courthouse on West Avenue.
“I believe he’ll do what he says and get some law and order restored in this country,” said Tom Wedell, a Center Moriches Trump supporter. “No one follows the laws anymore. They can cross the border whenever they want and steal American jobs, then send the money out of the country at will and untaxed.”
“I support Trump because he’s the only person with common sense running,” added Manorville resident George Overbeck. “He’s telling us the way we want to hear it. He’s not lying to us. Democrats and Republicans are the same – they’re lying all the time.”
Meanwhile, a crowd of Trump protestors gathered at the corner of Gerard Street and Railroad Avenue to voice their distaste for the candidate and his policies.
Coram resident Mike Kardasz said he felt that Trump promotes hate and violence and has been creating those behaviors ever since he began running for president.
“He alienates people and promotes violence and hatred. I think he’s very bad for this country,” he said. “He has a right to express his opinions and so do we.”
Patchogue resident Eileen Edwards denounced Trump’s staunch immigration policy.
“I’m here to stand with my neighbors and my community,” said Edwards. “This man wants to take my neighbors away and that will never happen as long as I’m alive.”
Claire Yannicone – also from Patchogue – said that Trump’s ideas play upon the underlying racism throughout the county.
“What frightens me is that the racism he spouts is about what 30 percent of the people we live with believe,” said Yannicone. “If you want to have a society where people can live and work together, you need to work against that.”
Right down the road near the LIRR station, another group of residents gathered to peacefully protest Trump’s visit, which was held near the intersection where Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant, was confronted and killed by a gang of teens in a racially motivated crime nearly eight years ago.
They chanted, “The people united will never be defeated.”
“I think it’s a travesty. I think it’s an injustice that he’s decided to be at The Emporium when Mr. Marcelo was killed right down the street,” said Patchogue resident Ken Smyrk. “I respect free speech, but I don’t respect volatile speech, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”
The rally – named the Vigil for Unity and Peace – was organized by friends and family members of Lucero and is held every year around the date of his death. This year, it was specifically correlated with Trump’s visit to the area.
“We really want to promote peace and understanding,” said Lisa Votino-Tarrant, one of the chief organizers of the vigil. “It’s about learning about and appreciating our differences versus putting up walls and blocks and being negative towards each other. There’s just no progress in that.”
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