Daily protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have ended after running for a month in Annville Town Square.
But the protests are continuing — now on a weekly basis — into autumn, organizers told LebTown last week.
“We are continuing this protest action up to the eve of the November elections because it is essential to keep this issue in the public eye in order to enact meaningful reform that puts an end to the appalling degree of racist police violence against people and communities of color, and to hold our public officials accountable — the same reasons that similar protest actions are continuing across the country,” organizer Michael Schroeder said.
Schroeder, an Annville resident and associate professor of history at Lebanon Valley College, said the protests are sponsored by the Annville Town Square Protesters for Racial Justice.
Daily demonstrations were held, weather permitting, from 4 to 5 p.m. June 5 to July 5 at the intersection of Routes 422 and 934.
They began following the May 25 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while other officers stood by. Organizers said the issue is bigger than Floyd, however; police brutality against African-Americans has been occurring locally, across the state and country, and around the world.
The protests culminated July 5 with a public reading at the square of the speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which was first given by abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852.
In a statement, Schroeder said the 30-day action “was a great success, with well over 100 participants over the course of 30 consecutive days. We’re now looking to build on that momentum as we move toward the critically important fall elections.”
The average number of participants each day “slowly climbed over the course of the 30 days,” he told LebTown. “In the beginning it was an average of around 15 to 20 people, and by the end that average had risen to 25 to 30 (people), and on some days 35 to 40 (people). I’m also happy to say that at least one new person showed up every single day.”
The Annville group hopes to “demonstrate to the citizens of Lebanon County that the ridiculous lies coming out of the White House about BLM protesters being ‘anarchists’ and ‘terrorists’ who want to ‘destroy America’ are just that — ridiculous lies and total nonsense,” the statement continued. “We are peaceful patriots who love our country and seek to keep it true to its foundational ideals that all people are created equal and have equally inalienable rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and equality before the law.”
It wasn’t long after the July 5 event that Schroeder announced another protest on Wednesday, July 15, and continuing for the next 16 Wednesdays, from 4-5 p.m., until Wednesday, Oct. 28.
That, Schroeder explained, is the last Wednesday before the Nov. 3 elections — “far and away the most important presidential election in my lifetime, and probably in anyone’s lifetime.”
He said the public response to the 30-day protest series was overwhelmingly positive.
“At times the whole intersection was filled with the sound of honking horns and the sight of hands waving and thumbs-ups and raised fists and other supportive gestures,” he said. “We also received a much smaller number of negative reactions, almost all from white men (and the remainder from white women).”
“My own feeling is that these hundreds of ongoing protest actions, including ours, serve multiple ends,” he added. “Not only do they exert pressure on public officials for meaningful reform and keep the issue in the public eye, but they also serve to demonstrate to the public at large that Black Lives Matter is a much-needed positive force for peaceful change in the USA today.”
President Donald Trump has characterized the Black Lives Matter movement as a “symbol of hate,” Schroeder noted.
“That is an absurd and malicious lie, and part of what we’re doing is making clear to our neighbors right here in Lebanon County that our local Black Lives Matter activists are peaceful, patriotic, firm believers in the U.S. Constitution and the foundational promise of our beloved nation, and committed to genuine reform to make this a better country for everyone.”
Also, Schroeder said, “our protest action has also served to build a sense of community among its participants. Thanks to our daily gatherings I’ve gotten to know dozens of my neighbors, made a lot of friends, and deepened some friendships I already had — and I know the same is true for others. The many positive ripple effects continue being created and flowing outward.”
Annville Town Square Protesters for Racial Justice is led by a five-person steering committee made up of Schroeder, the Rev. Tony Fields, the Rev. Tim Dewald, the Rev. C. Frank Terhune and Elisa Rodriguez.
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