Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis attended the fourth protest in Shirley Thursday, spending hours speaking with demonstrators angry over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis to urge safety and to offer advice on how to channel their energy to achieve concrete goals.
“What do you want to achieve here?” she asked a group gathered around her in the parking lot of the shopping center at the corner of William Floyd Parkway and Montauk Highway anchored by Applebee’s.
Motioning to various individuals, she said, “You want activities for youth. You want education. You want criminal-justice system changes … Whatever you want, what’s the methodology that you want? If you don’t have a methodology, you don’t achieve goals.”
Mention-Lewis, who was the first African American and the first woman to hold the deputy commissioner position when she was recruited by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in 2012, encouraged the protesters to come up with a list and connect with centers like the National Network for Safe Communities that are committed to creating safer communities.
Prior to her role at SCPD, Mention-Lewis served for two decades as a Nassau County assistant district attorney.
As of 8:30 p.m., the roads remained clear as several dozen protesters stayed on the corner. Police presence was also minor in comparison to previous nights.
Leon Green, 39, who said he has known Mention-Lewis for years, back to a time when he had gotten in trouble, said she now checks in on him regularly and called him about attending.
“She said hatred toward police is not going to get us anywhere,” Green said. “We’ve got to have a reason for doing what we’re doing.”
Brian Hernandez, of Shirley, said Mention-Lewis offered “guidance, inspiration,” and that she “planted seeds.”
“This is what leaders look like,” he added.
For Jay Bell, 25, of Mastic, the protests are about seeking long-term change.
“We’re not out here to be trying to be fools. We’re out here to organize and strategize,” Bell said. “Hopefully, people can open their ears and listen to us. All of us are different. A lot of people are clueless about what goes on in black America.”
Protest organizer Nakia Sparkmon, 27, of Mastic, said tomorrow’s protest will be much larger, and that it will include a march, though the precise route was still being determined.
The protest will use the hashtag #MarchforFloyd.
Wayne Allen, 35, of Shirley, said he expects the protests to continue for some time.
“I feel like there is going to be like 90 straight days of this … until there’s a resolution in the country, not just our town.”