The heat and humidity has been killer the past three days, so much so that almost nothing could pull me away from the air conditioner…almost nothing. Today when I heard that there were peaceful protesters down by Claude’s Creamery in Palmerton, I grabbed my bag, a bottle of water, and ran out the door.
Being without a car of my own, I haven’t yet been able to get to any of the nearby protests in Allentown, Bethlehem, or Lehighton. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that there was one happening just down the street. After seeing all of the pictures and videos of protests online, I expected a huge crowd, but was instead surprised to find only five protesters standing at the corner of Delaware Avenue and 4th Street, right beside the police station. While I was disappointed that my community hadn’t come together like I’d hoped, I was still grateful to see these five people standing for equal rights and against racial injustice.
The peaceful protest was put together by Connor Russo (18) and Carson Allen (18), both from Palmerton. While they said it was put together a little last minute, they were able to get some other people involved. I asked them what the tipping point had been for them, causing them feel that they needed to put together a peaceful protest of their own. As they explained it, they didn’t want to stay silent for the injustice of George Floyd’s murder. They haven’t yet been able to attend any of the other protests, so they wanted to put one together, but moreover they wanted the small town voices to join in with those of the bigger cities to show their support.
As I mentioned, the peaceful protest took place right beside the Palmerton police station on the corner of Delaware Avenue and 4th Street. When I approached the corner, I noticed two officers standing on the front steps of the station, but they seemed relatively at ease. When I asked Connor and Carson if the police had spoken to them at all, they said that yes, the police did talk to them and expressed their gratitude that the group was protesting peacefully. The officers even offered to keep the group’s personal belongings up on the station’s steps to make sure nothing was stolen.
Upon asking the group what they thought of the rioting and looting happening in other cities, they stated that they don’t support the looting, but they understand the rioting – as they put it, “We’re not in that position, so we can’t speak for those people.” It truly warmed my bitter heart that these young adults, fresh out of high school, are so open-minded and so open-hearted that they clearly see the racial injustice happening in our country and respond to it with love and support without trying to speak for other people’s experiences. It takes a lot of wisdom and self-awareness to have that perspective.
Whether the turn out was small because the protest was a last minute event or because the town wasn’t interested, I can’t say for sure. However, as I stood there with the group, drivers continually honked their horns in support and held their fists up in the air through their open windows. Unfortunately, there were a handful of people giving the group blow back for their efforts, including middle fingers and shouts about “white pride”. One of the protesters stated that it’s scary to “know that those kinds of people live in this town, they’re our neighbors”.
Despite the few racist douchebags and their repugnant “white pride” remarks (my words, not the peaceful protesters’), the group carried on, spreading their call for equality and justice. And even though there was some blow back, the group felt that there was way more support than there was antagonism.
This group is evidence that it doesn’t matter if you’re “just” five voices or two or even one, to make positive change happen, you have to stand up and speak out against violence, injustice, and repression. We all have a voice and the only way that change can happen, is if we use it.
If you plan on going to any protests, please remember to stay safe, stick with a buddy if you can, and drink plenty of water, because it’s hot as hell outside.