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Symbolic Funeral Protests ‘Death’ Of Youth Programs In Nassau County

Sergio Argueta speaks at the podium at the symbolic funeral of youth programs. (Credit: CBS 2)

Sergio Argueta speaks at the podium at the symbolic funeral of youth programs. (Credit: CBS 2)

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MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - Some streets on Long Island were filled with caskets and hearses on Thursday, and it wasn’t for a real funeral.

The funeral was symbolic. The coffins were empty, but the scene was filled with very real and raw emotion.

“We have decided to bring attention to the death and destruction that the Nassau County government has declared on the youth,” Sergio Argueta of S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth, Inc. declared to a gathering of people at the mock funeral.

Argueta gave up gang life, and he knows what troubles brew on summer streets when there is nothing to do.

On Thursday he organized a miles-long procession that grew through neighborhoods from Hempstead to the county seat in Mineola.

Horns honked, church bells chimed and people protested and mourned the death of youth programs in the area.

“Without these programs, kids will fill prisons, kids will fill courthouses and kids will fill graves,” Argueta told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Nassau County’s latest budget woes have led to a complete or pending shutdown of 37 tax-free funded programs that provide arts, camps, after-school sports, family counseling, drug intervention and homework help to 50,000 at-risk kids.

Amory Sepulveda can certainly speak on the subject of idle teens with guns. She was paralyzed by a bullet while waiting for a cab in Hempstead.

“Somebody suddenly started driving with a gun and started shooting at random people,”  Sepulveda said. “[I was hit] in my back, which led me to be in a wheelchair for life.”

Organizers at the rally blamed legislators and Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano for reneging on their word.

Republicans stand by the fact that it is the Democrats who should be ashamed. They assert that Democrats refuse to approve the budget until their political redistricting demands are met, and that is why children’s programs are suffering.

Families who support youth services complain that politics are taking precedence over people in Nassau County.

Nassau County residents, have you seen or felt the impact of having less youth programs in the area? Let us know in the comments section below…