As protesters across the nation gathered in solidarity for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, college and university student from across Pennsylvania also lent their voices.
Eammon Wrightstone, a sophomore at New York University, and Alexia Brown, a sophomore at Emerson College, are both Harrisburg natives who assisted in organizing the protest in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Steps on Saturday.
“Our sole intention for the day was to create an empowering space. We made sure we advocated for peace and positivity, however, we cannot control everything,” Wrightstone said. “We just made sure to advocate that there is a power in ignoring their ignorance and not instigating, there are Black bodies on the line and we did not want anyone to get hurt.”
Wrightsone told the Capital-Star that city police there were to “protect” the protesters as they marched. But he said they were mostly wearing blue lives matter masks and had “ignorant” attitudes towards protesters who were calmly asking questions.
Wrightstone also said it’s imperative for students to join this fight whether you are a Black voice that needs to be heard, or a person who wants to be an ally.
“It’s an uprising against the disgusting treatment of people who didn’t even ask to come to this country and have been treated as our president seems fond to call Black Americans, thugs, and animals even though they did everything they were forced and asked to do.”
Brown told the Capital-Star that the crowd in Harrisburg over the weekend cut across race, age and gender lines, with millennials and GenZ protesters turning out in strength. She also stressed that the majority of the weekend’s protest in Harrisburg was peaceful.
“I think something that should be emphasized is that the Harrisburg protests should not be categorized as taking “a violent turn” as many news outlets have said. From what I have witnessed and read there were one or two agitators that harmed cops, causing them to bring out riot gear that was unnecessary and only instigated more tension,” Brown said.
Rory Klingensmith, a rising third year at Drexel University, attended Harrisburg’s protest with her younger sister.
“One part of the rally I appreciated while I was there, was the constant cries that this was a peaceful protest. The reason behind participation is plain and simple; to catalyze change in the police force, to put a stop to racism in general, and to support the Black Lives Matter movement.”
As a young white woman, Klingensmith said acknowledged that that she’lll never fully understand what it is like to live as a Black person in America.
“There have been generation after generation of injustice in this country, and although it does not apply to my demographic, there is no reason not to act,” she said.
In Philadelphia, students joined protesters, marching down the boulevard from the Art Museum, to City Hall, and up Broad Street.
Shay Strawser, a junior at Temple University, mentioned how the media has focused primarily on the violent portions of these protests, when in reality they started out peaceful.
“I think these past events were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Of course, it’s focused on the BLM, but the larger picture, especially in Philly, is regarding the most recent budget cuts,” Strawser told the Capital-Star.
Recent Temple University graduate, Mckenzie Gelvin joined the Philadelphia protest as well. Gelvin said she’s is aware of the injustices that many of her close friends who are African American face each day, and that she will do everything she can to stand up for them.
“Personally, I feel that if the president was to provide even minimal support to the movement and help provide justice to those who deserve it less rioting and violence would be occurring,” Gelvin said. “President [Donald] Trump’s lack of support and instigative comments show to me that he is trying to enhance the segregation within our country, leading to a race war.”
Wrightstone urged student to vote — either in-person, or by mail — in Tuesday’s primary election, and to stay engaged through this November’s general election.
“There are some amazing Black and people of color candidates,” Wrightstone said. “Get out and campaign for them.” Wrightstone stated.
Correspondent Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, is a sophomore communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia.