Around 150 persons staged a peaceful rally in downtown Tunkhannock Friday afternoon to raise awareness of racial injustice in one’s home community and the nation and world as well.
They gathered around 2 p.m. on the courthouse grounds, and were greeted by Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry who congratulated the students for exercising their Constitutional rights responsibly. He also agreed to offer whatever support he could, and encouraged them in their noble cause.
Tunkhannock Area High School student Anthony Eckert was one of the organizers of the event, and admitted he was a bit of a novice.
But his charges were clear about their mission for the afternoon, and following a few minor introductions, the mostly high school students marched to the downtown area of East Tioga Street and fanned out to about a half a block east and west, and south of the Tioga St.-Bridge St. intersection, where with homemade placards they shared messages they felt needed to be shared with anyone who would look.
For a couple of hours from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., TA alum Kira Deremer at the southwest corner of the intersection and current student Rosalee Culver from the southeast corner offered chants back and forth to keep the crowd energized.
All of a sudden three or four vehicles might pass by and honk their horns which kept the ralliers revved up; or if a tractor-trailer rig happened through town, truck drivers would give a blast to keep them charged up.
Eckert said, probably all told, only a handful of folks actually shouted something racist or contrary to the students’ message, but were easily out shouted by their fellow comrades, who were buoyed by a car honk.
“There really were no serious confrontations,” he said Monday morning after a couple of days to reflect.
Why talk about racial injustice now?
Eckert said, “I think certainly people gave concern to it before George Floyd’s death, considering he’s one of many to be murdered unfairly by the police, but his death has definitely been the tipping point for many people and the current movement has much more momentum behind it” than anything previous.
He said he would not be surprised to see another rally in Tunkhannock in a couple of weeks.
For now, though Eckert said, “I think people just need to keep talking about it and how we can improve in our daily lives. We need to start challenging that one relative, friend, or coworker who does or says things that they may not even realize come off as racially insensitive. And, people need to understand that we live in such a small bubble here in Tunkhannock. There’s much more world out there to see that has completely different issues and problems than we do.”
For help in their efforts, Eckert said he wanted to thank Rosie Culver, Ceejay Appel, Vivienne Moyer, Katie Wisnosky, Gina Suydam, Riley Simmons, Justin Seward, and Commissioner Henry who were all helpful in making the event possible.
He acknowledged the school district itself could make small changes to facilitate the conversation, “and it needs to start at a young age,” remembering when in elementary school, teachers calling the beigeish color crayon ‘skin color.’
That risks people thinking of white as the default, and other races often considered deviations from whiteness.
Eckert said if people start with small changes, and their neighbors do as well, they can actually lead to bigger things for a better world.