President Donald Trump was on Long Island Friday to talk about his administration’s fight against gang violence and MS-13.
U.S. Representative Peter King, R,-NY2, introduced the president to an audience of mostly local law enforcement officials and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at Suffolk County Community College, a few minutes away from where police say 17 MS-13 gang-related murders have occurred over the last year.
“Few communities have suffered worse at the hands of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island,” said Trump. “Hard to believe, I grew up on Long Island. I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know about this. Our hearts and our nation grieve for the victims and their families.”
The audience of mostly local law enforcement officials broke out into applause when Trump criticized government officials for not giving law enforcement more freedom when dealing with gang suspects.
“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, I say, ‘Please don’t be too nice,” said Trump said. “Like when you put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head. The way you put their hand over. Like don’t hit their head, they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head. I say you can take the hand away, okay?”
Several hundred demonstrators from the immigrant, LGBT and progressive communities, protested outside the event.
Patricia Rios is a former Trump supporter. “He’s picking and choosing what Americans are supposed to have rights? Well, then therefore, I guess I have to vote him out. Because all Americans, all of us, should have the same rights, always. You don’t pick and choose, buddy. You don’t pick and choose.”
Protestors used the rally to protest the President’s positions on a number of topics.
Lauren, a music teacher at a Catholic school who asked that her last name be withheld for fear that her views may get her fired, said she believes that Trump’s anti-Obamacare views are dangerous and his anti-immigrant rhetoric causes harm to her students and their families.
“Most of my students are not white, their families are not from here, and he’s not right. I’m here for my students,” she said.
Sebastian, an 11-year-old boy, attended the protest with his family. His mother wanted his last name withheld.
“I don’t think it’s fair that Trump is using the tragedies that MS-13 brought like since they’re mainly people from El Salvador. He’s using the tragedies to basically promote hate towards Central Americans.”
The protest was met with counter-protesters.
Mary Cuozo couldn’t understand why the protestors even showed up. “Donald Trump is here to address the issue of MS-13. Why are people protesting him? Do they want more machete killings?”
Robert Biangazzo supports the President for security reasons. “Supporting the President because the crime violence in this neighborhood, Brentwood and Central Islip, because of the illegal immigration is out of control. It's not a safe neighborhood at night and America has to be safe.”
While both sides traded insults and there were a few altercations, there were no major problems.