CANONSBURG – Part of protesting peacefully is hitting certain entities where it especially hurts.
“I’m sure you guys have seen companies on social media bashing our movement, not seeing the value in our lives, not seeing the point of why we’re out here. That’s disrespectful,” Faith McClendon told the hundreds of participants gathered early Saturday afternoon in front of the Canonsburg Municipal Building.
“And to be honest, we shouldn’t be giving them our money,” she continued. “If they’re not going to respect us, why should we give them our money?”
McClendon, who is studying criminal justice and computer forensics at Robert Morris University, was one of the organizers of a peaceful protest and march conducted as demonstrations continue in response to George Floyd’s death in police custody on Memorial Day.
She spoke during a pre-march rally, during which participants sat and observed eight minutes, 46 seconds of silence, symbolic of the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck prior to his death.
Another organizer, Clark Atlanta University senior Kierra King, explained before the period of silence that its purpose was “to really think about what’s going on in this world. Maybe put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and just think, what if it were you?”
Also, she explained the significance of Juneteenth, which commemorates the arrival of federal troops in Galveston, Texas, with long-overdue news of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“A lot of us learned in school that it freed the slaves, but it didn’t free all the slaves. They were still gathering slaves in Texas. There were still slaves in Texas. And it wasn’t until 1865 – actually June 19, 1865 – that slaves were free,” King said about the entirety of the United States. “So that is why we celebrate Juneteenth. It is our Independence Day.”
Other features of the rally included the Rev. Anita Lovell, pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Canonsburg, leading the crowd in prayer, and Canon-McMillan High School student Brianna King singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Often referred to as the Black national anthem, the song was composed as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in the early 20th century.
Organizer Zhiere Patmon made sure to inform everyone present on Saturday that if they weren’t registered to vote yet, they had an opportunity to do so at a table set up for the purpose.
“In this election – in this election! – we need to go out and vote,” he said. “So that means whether we are voting for president, whether we are voting for mayor, whether we are voting for whatever office, we are citizens, and we have a right to let our voices be heard.”
The march took place as the temperature climbed into the low 80s, and the organizers provided plenty of ice water and snacks for those who joined the march, which proceeded along East Pike Street, North Jefferson Avenue, Arch Street, and North Central Avenue. A business along the route, Old Soul Tattoos, also had water and snacks available for marchers, plus the use of a restroom.
Participants in the peaceful protest also were offered masks for protection against COVID-19 and signs to carry during the march. Members of the Canonsburg Police Department helped ensure safety, as did trained marshals who walked with the protesters.
Washington County saw six new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing its total to 168 since data began being collected in March. Greene County had five new cases since Friday, for a total case count of 35.
In Allegheny County, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 36 new cases and one additional death, for a total of 2,175 cases and 179 virus fatalities.
State health department figures released Sunday afternoon showed an additional 968 cases being recorded since Friday, bringing the statewide total to 81,730. The virus killed an additional four people statewide, bringing that total to 6,423. Six of those occurred in Washington County while Greene County continues to have no COVID-19 fatalities.
“With more than half of the state now in the green phase of the process to reopen, it is essential that we continue to take precautions to protect against COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a release issued Sunday.
“The commonwealth’s careful, measured approach to reopening is working as we see case counts continue to decline even as many other states see increases. But the virus has not gone away. Each of us has a responsibility to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently. Together we can protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our health care system.”
As a reminder, mask wearing is required in all businesses in yellow and green phases of reopening. Consistent mask wearing, even in counties in the green phase, could have lasting positive effects as a COVID-19 surge is possible this fall, the Health Department said.