Wave after wave of cars, trucks and motorcycles passed down Front Street to First Street in Greenport Sunday afternoon. The noise from truck horns and megaphones was deafening at times.
The caravan, dubbed MAGA-Gras II, began in East Northport earlier in the morning and continued to Riverhead where a large group of Trump supporters had gathered at the former Walmart to join.
Supporters of the president lined the south side of Front Street, clustered around Mitchell Park, while protesters lined the north side of the street a hundred yards to the west by Third Street. Everyone on both sides waited for the caravan to leave Riverhead and make its way east to Greenport.
The caravan brought traffic to a standstill at times on both Route 58 and Main Road in Southold Town.
“People were tired of being home, tired of being told what you could and couldn’t do regarding gatherings,” organizer Shawn Farash of West Babylon said in an interview prior to Sunday’s event. “Then we see people labeling violent protests as peaceful protests, so we thought we’re gonna have a peaceful protest ourselves. We’re showing people what it really means to support your First Amendment right.”
By 12:30, dozens of Biden supporters lined the north side of Front Street. “We want this to be peaceful, but we want to be heard and we want to be present,” said Peter LeVasseur of Sayville. “I am very worried about the direction of this country. I am pro environment and pro immigration.”
On the Biden side, the signs were everywhere, from “200,000 lives matter,” about the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, to others that called into question the president’s morals. One sign read, “Trump lied – 200,000 died.”
As everyone waited on the caravan’s arrival, Liz Guerra, of East Marion, handed out leaflets urging people to be silent as the caravan went by.
While he waited by Mitchell Park, Trump supporter Ryan Sperl, of Greenport, said, “I heard about the rally, and I wanted to be here. My two big issues are immigration and socialism. I grew up in California near the Mexican border. We have to do something about immigration.”
Southold Town police were out in numbers, with Chief Martin Flatley near Front Street telling the protesters to please stay out of the street and not block traffic. Officers in front of the Trump crowd by the park told people the same.
“We want to caravan to be able to pass through the village and move on,” he said.
In an interview on the sidewalk he said something like 700 cars in the caravan left Northport earlier in the day. “We just want to get everyone through the village and out as best as possible,” he said.
At the height of the caravan — the chief estimated the number at about 500 vehicles — Trump supporters and opponents shouted insults at each other. People on both sides screamed obscenities. The middle finger – from both sides – was ubiquitous. Ear splitting truck horns rocked the air, as did people shouting through megaphones, as Trump banners and American flags fluttered in the cool breeze on the backs of hundreds of trucks.
At one point mid-afternoon, a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters began shouting at Trump supporters on the opposite side of the street. The ‘f’ word hurled out of a car of other Black Lives Matters supporters as they drove past the Trump crowd.
The caravan went on for hours; when it looked like it might be over, another wave came through. The crowd in Greenport had mostly dispersed by 4 p.m., with some cars from the Trump caravan parked on side streets and on Main Road toward Southold. Chief Flatley said one arrest had been made: A man charged with disorderly conduct.
That man was Ted Schroeder of Greenport, a 60-year-old house painter. “I was sitting home watching the 49ers,” he said. “I didn’t know anything was going on. I am watching the game and eating hamburgers. I hear this noise so I walk down the road and a block from me is a Nazi parade. I went over there. I had no choice. I threw some insults at them. I walked in front of their cars to slow them down. An officer said you will be arrested if you keep doing that.
“I stayed a little longer and started to walk away. One Nazi supporter yelled out [an obscenity about Black people]. I wasn’t prepared for this. That blew my mind. I went home. Got my license and my ID. I told my son I was going to get arrested. I went back there. Going up First Street I walked out in front of the Nazi vehicles and blocked them. The police were close by. I was arrested.”
Mr. Schroeder said he was charged with disorderly conduct, a violation. He said he would pay the fine, $240.
“Why don’t more people do something?” he said. “I had no choice.”