Around 40 area residents assembled on East Tioga Street Saturday afternoon to quietly express their anger and disbelief over the senseless killing by a police officer of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minn., the previous week which many said was a tipping point to which they had to do something.
The Saturday gathering was a response to a Facebook post by Tunkhannock resident Jessica Turner which touched a nerve among many Wyoming Countians.
Turner said Saturday, she had originally had an idea to go to a similar gathering in Scranton, but decided to stay near home because of the pandemic, and because “whether we see it or not, people suffer many of the same injustices in small towns.”
Just after a Borough Police cruiser passed by the crowd, Martin was quick to say, “This is not about us against law enforcement. We have not had any problem with police here. This is about naming racial injustice and standing together as one to say it can’t be tolerated wherever we live.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Jhamal Zacharias, who is finishing up his junior year at Tunkhannock Area High School which has less than two percent of its student body considered African American.
Zacharias said he thought for a few minutes about being on the street where he might be targeted, but when many of his white school mates said they would stand with him that meant a lot.
“What happened to George Floyd is so wrong. We can’t be silent,” he said. “It’s very important for a town like Tunkhannock — which isn’t very diverse — to let people know all lives matter.”
Erica Bertram of Falls said she has sons, now ages 10-26, who over the past eight years have had the N-word thrown their way. “It’s hurtful because it shouldn’t happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said.
Diane Sneed of Tunkhannock agreed. She has an African-American husband and her children are bi-racial. She said her daughter who is about to graduate has experienced being singled out. She also noted another child, a son, now 22, who when a student at Mill City Elementary School “was not only called a Nigger but the student who did that, said he was going to kill my son.”
“Nobody should have that on them,” Sneed said.
She’d like to see more discussion of issues like her son faced discussed in a school setting so the public has a clear understanding that hate speech is not tolerated.
“This is a start,” she said, referring to the assemblage of folks on the street Saturday afternoon. “But we have a long, long way to go.”