Photo: Denise Civiletti

To the Editor:

I attended the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally Saturday at the Suffolk County Supreme Court building on Griffing Avenue. Many such rallies took place nationwide Saturday in support of women’s rights in light of the recently leaked SCOTUS brief regarding Roe v Wade.

Here in Riverhead, I estimate over 200 supporters turned out. The attendees included parents with toddlers in strollers, elderly couples, and some folks who brought their dogs.

The lone traffic control officer assigned by the town as a crossing guard for the event is to be commended for his efforts at keeping things safe and orderly. Kudos to the additional patrol officers who stayed in their vehicles maintaining an apparent observation perimeter blocks away for approximately two hours. I’d like to think there were additional plain clothes law enforcement embedded in the crowd too.

Sadly, I’m concerned that my call to the duty officer at police HQ early in the event, to request additional foot patrol to support the lone TCO, was apparently ignored, as no such help arrived while the number of attendees continued to increase. There were no barriers in place to separate the crowd from vehicle traffic, and no efforts to divert drivers away the area.

I’m fairly certain the TCOs are unarmed. He was the lone visible peace officer closest to the crowd if something turned bad. The speakers included high level political officials, some who are even candidates for federal office. We know, in the past, bad actors have sought out such people at similar venues.

Next time I hope the town board and police officials have a more thoughtful crowd plan activated for an event of this size where the potential exists for vehicle-pedestrian mixing and/or counter-demonstrations. We’ve all seen too many news stories where terrorists have driven into peaceful crowds.

Thankfully Saturday was free any such negative occurrences.

Mitchell Hagler

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