Attempting to cover a recent demonstration protesting New York's lockdown and demanding reopening of the state led to News 12 Long Island reporter Kevin Vesey receiving a stream of vitriol from protesters.
Many shouted at Vesey to demonstrate their displeasure with news media and his presence at the rally. Several people refused to maintain social distance—some even followed him around as he tried to avoid getting too close.
Vesey was attempting to cover the rally for News 12 Long Island, to provide an opportunity for protesters' voices to be heard. But many of the protesters seemed extremely displeased with his presence there.
The protest was organized by a group called the Setauket Patriots, via Facebook. The group are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump, whose attempts to discredit the media are well known.
Despite their attempts to make him go away, Vesey did catch some of what was being said.
Protestors were upset with Governor Cuomo's stay-at-home order.
"Who is King Cuomo to tell a business owner they can't be open? Or that you have to wear a mask when you walk into his store?"
Many at the protest were not wearing masks or following other safety precautions.
One woman, who appeared to be there with two small children, pursued Vesey to berate him while refusing to maintain a safe distance.
Another man insisted that he was safe and didn't need to stay away from Vesey because he had taken the anti-malaria drug hydroxycholoroquine, which has not been proven to have any significant effect on the virus but was touted by the President as effective.
Reporter: "I think you need to back away from me" Protester: "No. I got hydroxychloroquine, I'm fine." Reporter: "… https://t.co/K34ZTb79m6— Alex Kantrowitz (@Alex Kantrowitz)1589499760.0
Vesey shared video of his experience on Twitter.
The protest was also covered on air by News 12 Long Island.
I'll probably never forget what happened today. I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people w… https://t.co/P5KMRKGisx— Kevin Vesey (@Kevin Vesey)1589493881.0
Protesters' signs ranged from simple assertions that businesses are essential and should be reopened all the way to calls for Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci to be hanged.
Twitter users were largely appalled by the behavior of those at the rally.
This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. https://t.co/RvxgxVKN2n— Jason Lyall (@Jason Lyall)1589503980.0
@KevinVesey So, this person is there interviewing them, trying to get their side and all they want to do is spew th… https://t.co/KxbMDV7Kq4— Nancy Sara Ice Queen Extraordinaire❄🦄🌹🍃 (@Nancy Sara Ice Queen Extraordinaire❄🦄🌹🍃)1589494828.0
President Trump retweeted Vesey's clip.
Rather than calling for calm or common decency, Trump praised the demonstrators for their aggressive harassment and called them "Great people!"
This drew criticism for the President from other Twitter users.
@realDonaldTrump By 'people' you mean YOU can't get enough of it. That's why you keep retweeting it. The reporter… https://t.co/TgqnMmnpl1— D Villella ❄️ (@D Villella ❄️)1589636718.0
@realDonaldTrump Imagine being so proud of being so ignorant.— Nick Jack Pappas (@Nick Jack Pappas)1589636491.0
@JeffreyGuterman @realDonaldTrump Not only hazardous but now proven to be deadly. https://t.co/VIASS4cqRd— Girl Dwt (@Girl Dwt)1589637248.0
The views espoused by demonstrators do not reflect everyone in the community, however. Some residents of Commack—where the protest was held—said they didn't agree with what the protesters were doing.
Diane Kraut told News 12 Long Island:
"We're a hard-working, loving community. When you see the protest, just know that it does not represent what Commack is all about."
The book The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America is available here.