Unity. Peace. Justice.
Those words were heard over and over during Sunday’s rally at the PA Capitol, the latest in a weeklong series of protests following the death of George Floyd and demands for equal rights and fair justice.
Several hundred protestors gathered at the state Capitol and marched along downtown Harrisburg streets and over to City Island before returning to the Capitol steps to rally again.
Along the way, the diverse crowd held signs decrying police violence and engaged in chants such as “Say His Name: George Floyd” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
“This march is one of solidarity,” said community activist Kevin Maxson, speaking to the crowd. “We demand change. That’s why we’re all here today.”
Maxson heads up the group, Voices 4 the Voiceless, which organized the event. He recently ran for state Assembly, losing to incumbent Patty Kim for the Democratic nomination for the 103rd legislative district.
As he spoke, Maxson repeatedly emphasized that the protest would be well organized, peaceful and respectful—and it was. Harrisburg police kept their distance, mostly blocking traffic for the marchers, and they were hardly visible during the four-hour event. During the day’s second march, protestors knelt in front of police headquarters on Walnut Street.
At the Capitol, Maxson repeatedly urged people to unify and work together for change. This, he said, could take the form of organizing, voting and even running for office.
“Today, we make a change, a definitive change,” he said. “This is a peaceful rebellion for justice.”
After he spoke, Maxson handed the microphone over to anyone in the crowd who wished to speak, and several people did. These included a recent graduate who decried funding cuts that he said disproportionately affected minority organizations at his college, a young woman who apologized to the crowd for inflammatory social media posts she had made, and Jose Martinez of Harrisburg’s Capital Punishment Boxing Club, who spoke up in defense of law enforcement.
“Don’t blame every police officer,” he told the protesters, some of whom held large signs that read, “Blue Lives Murder” and “Abolish Police & Prisons.” “Every police officer isn’t bad.”
Rebecca Donovan said that she came into Harrisburg from Hershey after hearing about the rally. She said that she wanted to show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the cause of equal justice before the law.
“This is such an amazing movement for a just cause,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”
Speaker Cole Goodman, a Democratic state committeeman, said that the movement must endure past these initial protests, not dissipate as in past, nationally publicized cases of police brutality.
“The media talk about it for a few months, and then it fades away,” he said. “Not this time. Not this time.”
Maxson also emphasized that point. Ultimately, he wants the protestors, many young, to take what they’ve learned to make significant change in their communities.
“We can protest and march,” he said. “We can rally all we want. But need to have a plan afterwards.”