BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Protesters and supporters gathered outside Suffolk County Community College where President Donald Trump spoke Friday afternoon about the violent MS-13 street gang.
Protesters chanted “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go,” and “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” outside SCCC’s Brentwood campus.
The protest drew teachers and immigrants.
“The big problem in terms of gang-related is also bullying, and we have someone who’s speaking who is the bully of all bullies. So I think it’s hypocritical,” teacher Donna Migdol said.
As well as LGBT military families.
“We have a right to serve – gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual — we love this country,” Nydia Phillips said.
Many protesters felt the presidential visit was just a photo-op.
“I think that he’s using this situation to massively exploit out undocumented community here on Long Island,” protester Jenny Ahrend said.
“He is just the disease that’s infecting the country,” a woman who moved to the United States when she was 9 years old told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “He’s inciting racism and bigotry.”
The protesters believe MS-13 is a problem but they don’t believe the president’s solution is the way to go about eradicating the gang’s influence on Long Island, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“Our message today is for the local police departments of Long Island to not cooperate or collaborate with ICE,” protesters Anita Halasz said. “They are classifying all undocumented immigrants as gang members, as violent criminals, which is not the case.”
But others residents eager for the president’s visit brushed off the protesters.
“Big fan of Donald Trump. God bless him, God bless America” one man said. “I think the controversy is made up by the media, I think it’s a bunch of baloney to be honest with you so I’m fully behind him.”
“We got his back. It is America first, and he’s doing everything that we elected him to do. Continue on, Mr. Trump,” a supporter told Hall.
“We’ve got to get rid of MS-13. Gang violence is out of control in Suffolk and they have got to clean it up,” another man added.
“Never in the history of Long Island have we ever had four young men macheted to death by MS-13, that’s why our president is here to address this issue. Why do we have people trying to stop him?” resident Mary Cuozo asked.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini addressed the crowds of critics.
“We’ve been aggressive in dealing with MS-13 gang members and we’re being criticized for cooperating with Homeland Security,” he said. “I am not making any apologies.”
One woman told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon she’s concerned about the Trump administration making immigrants even more afraid to cooperate with law enforcement.
“I mean it makes me wonder — are they supportive of this agenda, or are they just there because they have to be, they were told to be? I don’t know,” she said. “I can tell you my husband is a police officer and does not support Trump.”
But a man said he’s glad the federal government is taking MS-13 seriously.
“The past eight years, they did nothing about these groups,” he told Rincon. “So I’m hoping (for) a president that’s trying to address these issues of crime, and want murder and stuff on the streets of Long Island and across the county are going to be dealt with finally.”
The speech was held just blocks from where two teen girls were murdered by MS-13 gang members in Brentwood. The family of Kayla Cuevas was invited to meet the commander in chief, while Nisa Mickens‘ was not, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“They haven’t done anything. So we’re still waiting,” Mickens’ mother, Elizabeth Alvarado, said. “If it’s a waiting game, fine we’ll wait. If it takes five years, we’re going to wait. But you have to talk to us at the end of the day.”
“He should really come out of his way to see how we are,” father Robert Mickens said.
The walls of their Brentwood home are covered in tributes to the 15-year-old girl, and they’re on a mission to make a difference.
“Why did it take so long to start eradicating this gang, when America knew about this gang for many years?” Robert asked.
Isabelle Irizarry lives in Brentwood and was among the Long Islanders who are hopeful that the president’s words will have an impact.
“It’s very dangerous and they have to do something about that and I think that’s what he’s gonna do today,” Irizarry said.
“I think it’s important that he’s coming down to see what’s going on here and hopefully take a stance and support us in fixing the issues,” said Kings Park resident Dina Stramara.
The protests were heated and loud, but non-violent, Gusoff reported.
Along with Secret Service, a number of state troopers and local police are present to make sure that protesters remain peaceful.