A large group of peaceful protestors assembled outside of Bethlehem City Hall and the Public Library Thursday afternoon as part of a continuation of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Thursday’s stand-in came just four days after Saturday’s rally in which hundreds of protestors marched through the streets of Bethlehem in protest of a history of systemic racism in the country.
One of Thursday’s speakers, Matty Fall, praised the energetic crowd for continuing to show their support for the movement.
“I’m really glad we haven’t let the momentum die, and I hope we continue to keep pushing and we don’t stop here,” said Fall, a 2020 Northampton Community College graduate who’s now studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
Many in Thursday’s crowd were dressed in all-black, and the event’s organizers stressed the importance of wearing masks to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Organizers were diligent in providing water and snacks for the large crowd of protestors.
A small police presence was set up downtown to help close off streets and direct the flow of traffic near Payrow Plaza, but officers largely kept their distance from the protest.
For Fall, finding herself leading a protest against systemic racism was not something she had anticipated.
“I never thought that my 2020 year was gonna end up like this,” she told the crowd of around 500. “I’m really happy that it turned out this way, and that we were able to reach so many people in Bethlehem.”
At several points during the event protestors broke out into “Black Lives Matter” and “Say His Name” chants. Many of the attendees were carrying signs in support of the movement and in protest of police brutality and what they see as institutionalized racism.
Thursday’s protest came just one day after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin had his murder charge upgraded to second degree for the death of Floyd. Three other former officers present at the scene were also charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday.
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A second speaker at the event, Kennedy Hughes, stressed that the current wave of protests go beyond Floyd’s death, and are a reaction to a long history of ignoring injustice towards the African-American community.
“A conversation is at its peak when both parties are listening,” she said. “The black community has been trying to start a conversation with other communities for a long time.”
Hughes would go on to list other black Americans who have lost their lives to police violence and racism, such as Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Ahmaud Arbery. The crowd joined in, adding names such as Breonna Taylor.
One of the event’s organizers, Sydney Duffy, closed the event by urging those in attendance to register to vote and exercise that right. She also directed protestors to the event page where they can find additional resources to combat racism.
Other anti-racism protests are planned in the area this weekend and next week, including:
Saturday, June 6
- 12 pm, Phillipsburg, N.J. The protest will begin at Shappell Park at noon with a march to begin at 12:30 p.m., according to information in a tweet.
Sunday, June 7
- 12-2 pm, Easton. There will be a Cirlce of Peace for Black Lives Matter according to a tweet.
- 1 pm, Perkasie/Sellersville. The protest will start at the pavilion in Lenape Park and end on Main Street, across from the Sellersville firehouse. For more information see the Facebook event.
Tuesday, June 9
- 3 pm, Riegelsville. Parking is behind the Riegelsville Fire Station, 333 Delaware Road, Riegelsville (leave the front and side lots open for emergency access). The march will move down the hill to the middle of town, on the sidewalk, where it will be visible from all directions at the light on 611.
Most protests are being advertised in advance via social media; particularly on Instagram and Twitter. Protest organizers are advising participants to wear face masks at these gatherings and practice social distancing if possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.