‘Let today not end today’: Hundreds rally at Pa. Capitol for George Floyd, Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter protesters match down Harrisburg's Front Street in response to the death of George Floyd, May 30, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

*This story was updated with additional information at 9:42 pm 5/30/20

The came in their hundreds on a blazing hot day in late spring to say one name out loud:

George Floyd

Filling the state Capitol steps and spilling out into State Street in downtown Harrisburg, a crowd that cut across gender, race and age, gathered Saturday to show their support for Black Americans and to call for justice for George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died this week after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. All four police officers involved in the incident were immediately fired.

Derek Chauvin, the former officer caught on video with knee on Floyd’s neck, and who ignored Floyd’s pleas for mercy, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Minneapolis has been rocked by violent protests in the wake of the incident. On Saturday, for the first time in 164 years, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced the “full mobilization” of the state’s National Guard to combat the unrest.

A protester outside the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday, 5/30/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Protests were also planned for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Saturday, as part of a nationwide series of protests and rallies.

The crowd at the Pa. Capitol (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

In Harrisburg, the crowd, while agitated and visibly angry, kept calm. Shortly after midday, a column of hundreds of marchers, walked up State Street, carrying signs and chanting “No justice, no peace. Charge the police.”

The crowd at the Pa. Capitol on Saturday, 5/30/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

“Let today not end today,” one speaker said from the Capitol steps. “You know what you have to do. Since you have your hand to the plow, you better keep plowing forward.”

The protest, numbering in the hundreds, started at noon. At around 12:25 p.m., protesters began a march on Harrisburg’s street. Some groups would continue to march throughout downtown Harrisburg until 9:45 p.m.

Initially, protesters settled for a brief loop, down State Street to Front Street and back to the Capitol via Walnut Street and 3rd Street.

Along the way, they chanted “no more cops,” and threw their hands in the air while passing a policeman on the sidewalk.

Upon returning to the Capitol, the protesters heard more speeches, including one from Elsie Mbugua, a 20-year-old Hershey resident.

“I’m really, really exhausted of being in fear,” Mbugua said. “I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the white moderate. I’m tired of you not taking a stand against racism. I’m tired of you watching it and not saying anything.”

The crowd, then large enough to fill the bottom half of the Capitol steps and flow into 3rd Street, began to slowly disperse, as some left. One couple even circled the crowd, collecting empty plastic water bottles distributed to marchers.

But the protests continued, including the use of pepper spray on protesters near the Harvey Taylor Bridge, which crosses the Susquehanna River.

Protesters ended up back at the Capitol by 4:00 p.m., where they engaged in a standoff with riot police, equipped with shields and billy clubs. Some SWAT officers with assault weapons stood ready as well.

Police retreated behind a Capitol barricade, and protesters left around 5 p.m. to continue marching.

A Capital-Star reporter left the scene at the time, but protests continued until 9:45, according to PennLive.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse ordered a 9 p.m. curfew as well.

The Harrisburg protest was not the only one in Pennsylvania. Protests also reportedly occurred in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lancaster and Erie.

Protesters in Philaselphia and Pittsburgh included fires, arrests and looting. In response, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a disaster emergency Saturday night that allows state police and the National Guard to intervene as needed.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press
Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso is the Capital-Star's House reporter. He previously covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter. You can reach him at 845-891-4306.