By Gauri Shyamnath
“I can’t breathe!” The unfortunately well-known phrase recently reverberated amongst a certain collective youth along the streets of New Hyde Park Village Hall for more than three hours.
Source by Emily MacKnight
Protestors hold signs in front of Village Hall.
Before the scene is set, however, it is imperative to identify the trigger. The manifestation of systemic racism in the United States that was also translated into police brutality adopted a certain “cyclical” nature. This has completely transformed with the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police official Derek Chauvin and three fellow police officials. The disturbing video of his death was shared millions of times through social media and the news, and the cry “I can’t breathe” has ignited a now universal response.
However, this weighted occurrence is only one out of the numerous circumstances in this overarching issue of police brutality. Staying true to the nature of Generation Z, a mass of students from New Hyde Park Memorial resorted to social media to share resources, facts and figures, trauma, and even more unspoken stories. Friends and classmates became vocal, especially on Instagram, in order to show their support and call for justice. In addition to educational posts, people also shared links to online petitions and publicized ways to donate to certain funds that will jumpstart change for this massive problem of injustice.
As the posts flooded Instagram, two New Hyde Park juniors, Emily MacKnight and Jack Vasquez felt like something more needed to be done.
“Honestly, it really was something we put together pretty quickly. I was texting Emily about all these issues going on and I said, ‘Can we start something? Like a peaceful protest?’ I’ve really had enough,” said Vasquez.
“To organize the protest, I created a ‘flyer’ to send around social media to get the word out. Jack and I posted it on our Instagram and Snapchat stories and sent it to anyone who we thought would listen,” said MacKnight.
This flyer circulated throughout social media until the day of June 2, 2020 came. MacKnight and Vasquez had gathered a sufficient number of peers that would be present in the protest. People were encouraged to make signs, bring water, and wear masks.
It soon became obvious that emotions would flow since this is not the first time seeing a black man suffering under the hands of the police or people in positions of power.
“Say their names!” This phrase is referring to the seemingly unending victims of police brutality, which include murders that happened years ago as well as the most recent known death. Amongst the countless number of names are George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
“My most powerful emotion at the protest was hope. Seeing everyone come together to stand for what is right made me feel like there is hope and that we can fix this problem,” said junior Thalia Torio.
“My most powerful emotion at the protest was hope...”
While this may have been a commonality amongst these passionate protestors, it was not all smooth sailing in their perspective. Dirty looks from passing cars and pedestrians as well as the negative feedback spoken by a local bystander were clearly apparent to the protestors.
“He was just yelling at us to go home, and obviously he just thought we were a bunch of foolish kids taking up space on the sidewalk,” “The real problem was the negative reaction it caused…I'm just glad there were people around that were sensible enough to calm people down and prevent a further altercation.” said junior Isabella Suh.
This peaceful protest was an opportunity to voice the injustices that are so apparent and to spark change for those who need it. Despite the challenges from the initial stages until the execution, this group of individuals helped to bring New Hyde Park into the scope of world events and unapologetically embraced the Black Lives Matter movement.