The “silent majority” was loud and raucous at times on a hot Saturday afternoon in Eisenhower Park.
That’s what Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin (District 1), hearkening back to President Richard Nixon’s famous phrase, called the several thousand who had gathered at a Back The Blue Demonstration at Football Field No. 4.
A parade of speakers gave the crowd plenty of red meat to cheer, lambasting politicians who they felt backed the rioters and protesters over law enforcement, and worse, wanted to defund and reduce the presence of the police where they were needed the most.
The death of George Floyd in May not only sparked protests across the country, but renewed old debates over law enforcement’s relationship to minority communities.
Once the protests started, there arose a divide between those who felt the police went too far is suppressing First Amendment rights of speech and assembly, and those who defended the men and women who were trying to maintain order in the face of looting and rioting.
Family To Crowd
Austin Glickman, a NYPD officer who patrols the Harlem area and lives in Nassau County, was the main organizer of the rally. He heads an organization called Law Enforcement Weekend, a nonprofit that sponsors recreational outings for law enforcement families.
Glickman told Anton Media Group that he was first approached by the Village of Lynbrook PBA to set up a rally, but soon it was evident that a larger venue was needed.
“As it turned out, even Eisenhower Park wasn’t big enough,” he said, estimating that 3,000 to 4,000 people turned up and an equal amount was turned away.
Nassau Police had to shut down the event parking as the starting time loomed because “it was becoming a public safety concern,” he said.
Prior to the event, the group’s Facebook page urged attendees to avoid confronting what were expected to be counter-protesters, noting, “Although you may not agree with the counter-protest, it is their right to peacefully protest against ours.”
Asked if there were problems between the two groups, Glickman stated, “No, the county police did a phenomenal job separating the two crowds. Everyone was civil.”
A point of controversy in the days before the rally was the expected presence of outspoken rocker Ted Nugent to sing the National Anthem.
However, New York’s 14-day quarantine requirement (Nugent lives in Texas) reportedly scotched those plans, which had drawn criticism.
Glickman said that numerous organizations helped his group organize the rally, one of which had made arrangements to fly the singer to New York.
Asked for a name, Glickman demurred, stating, “Based on what our lawyer said, we’re going to avoid any of that. We’re a family-centered organization, never meant to be [caught in such controversy] in the first place. Unfortunately, that’s just the way the cookie crumbled.”
Glickman, a six-year veteran of the force, was asked for his views on the protests.
“No matter what side you’re on, most protesters are peaceful,” he replied. “They’re not looking to create any kind of havoc. Unfortunately, there are people out there looking to create problems. Eighty-five percent of the public supports law enforcement. A lot of people out there protesting are good people. They’re angry and upset, and a lot of politicians are using law enforcement as a scapegoat.”
Regarding Saturday’s rally, Glickman emphasized that “it wasn’t against Black Lives Matter and it wasn’t in support of Blue Lives Matter—we don’t even like to use that term. This was an event to rally the silent majority and to get them out there to support law enforcement.”
The officer said that his group has received much positive feedback and request to do another event. It is in the early stages of planning another one.
Law And Disorder
“It is a shame that we have to have a rally to support the police,” stated emcee Paul Butler, a law enforcement veteran from South Carolina who had been the youngest chief of police in that state’s history. In his state, he added, “you couldn’t hold an anti-police rally in a phone booth.”
Two women whose loved ones fell in the line of duty added their voices to the rally.
Lisa Tuozzolo’s husband Paul was killed in the Bronx by a suspect in a domestic dispute on Nov. 4, 2016.
His actions, Tuozzolo affirmed, saved the lives of his fellow officers.
“In my eyes, he was a hero long before that day,” she said. “But after November 4, not only did he become a hero for all of us, but I realized how many heroes there are in this world who put on that uniform every single day.”
Her “blue” family, she went on to say, had embraced her “blood” family, including sons Austin, 8, and Joey, 7.
Tuozzolo, who lives in Suffolk County, urged the many law enforcement in crowd, “Keep fighting. Keep remembering how much you are appreciated. How much you are needed and how much we care about you.”
Genesis Villella’s mother, Miosotis Familia, was killed “execution style” in the Bronx on July 5, 2017 as she sat in a mobile command unit.
“My mother was executed for being a police officer,” Villella said, breaking down. “She was a 12-year veteran who spent all of her career working in the Bronx. She was a true patriot who loved her country, loved being a cop and she once told me that it was her true calling.”
Like other speakers, Villella mentioned how much police officers sacrificed—missing holidays, family celebrations—to “serve and protect.”
“I want all Americans to remember that all these cops out here protecting us are human beings with families and friends and loved ones who need them to come home,” she stated, before reading a list of NYPD police officers killed in the line of duty in recent years, naming her mother first.
Nassau County PBA President James McDermott said he spent four years in the NYPD and the rest with the NCPD, calling them, “the two best police departments in the county. It was an honor to help the people of north Brooklyn, and it was an honor to work in the Fifth Precinct and help the people of Lakeview. We are here for you.”
He added, “My police officers and all police officers needed a shot in the arm right about now, and this [rally] is a shot in the arm for the Nassau County Police Department. Everybody needs to get a pat on the back.”
“We serve the public, and we do it honorably,” McDermott concluded. “That’s what’s getting lost in the sauce.”