Sunday, June 7, 2020

Thousands March in Pottstown for Racial Justice

Pottstown hosted yet another peaceful rally for racial justice Sunday, expanding exponentially on the number of people who showed up to call for equal treatment under the law for all Americans.

Once again, the organizers were four young people, Troy Rivera, Nate Smith, Xiomara Cosme and Shakira Skinner, with lots of help from Pottstown NAACP and YWCA Tri-County Area.

From my perch on the third floor of the former Ellis Mills building, now the home of J.J. Rattigan's and the Splitting Axe, I seemed to be to be between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

Here's a video of what it looked like from above.

As folks gathered in Smith Family Plaza in front of borough hall, YWCA Tri-County Area handed out
unity pledges to "stand against racism," and another table helped people register to vote.

Then, with Cosme on the bullhorn, those who could were urged to take to High Street.

And they did, by the hundreds.

A Pottstown Police cruiser led the way as High Street was closed to traffic between York and Adams streets.

Along with the Pottstown police officers working to manage traffic, were officers from West Pottsgrove, North Coventry, Lower Pottsgrove and Lower Frederick.

Those who marched came in all shapes, sizes, ages and colors, and included Pottstown Police Chief Michael Markovich.

After the event was over, Markovich said "it was a good day for Pottstown," noting that the march's organizers "set the standard for the country" on how to organize a peaceful march that gets its message across.

Part of that message had to do with police violence against African-Americans, and the use of dangerous restraining hold like the one used by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd, who was handcuffed.

"We need to have those conversations with police, to tell us what kind of holds they are authorized to use," said Skipper. 

Video and photos of Floyd's killing have sparked a global uproar over police violence against African-Americans, a reaction state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th Dist., called "an awakening."

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist., said today a "massive police reform package" is to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to, among other things, "stop the choke hold."

"We don't use choke holds," Markovich told me afterward. "We don't believe in them."

"All kinds of people are willing to bend their knee for black lives," said Stacey Woodland, executive director of YWCA Tri-County Area in Pottstown.

"The bended knee has become a symbol of solidarity, even of love," she said. "But it can also be a symbol of hatred" Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes "and those eight minutes have brought us to our knees," Woodland said.

"What will it take to get us back up?" she asked. "It will take love, and it will take justice!"

"That means justice for George Floyd. This is a test that America has failed again and again, but we have to believe it has failed for the last time," said Woodland. "America, we love you and we will not let you fail this time. This has to be the last time."

"This cannot be the end, this is a start," said Pottstown High School teacher Na'imah Rhodes. 

"When we leave here. Everybody out there; every officer; every congresswoman; every community member, what's next?"

What may well come next is a next generation of leaders.

Look around and you'll notice the prominent role young people are playing in major social movements seeking to change the intractable problems previous generations have failed to resolve.

Look at the state our country is in and take a look at the leaders who led us here.

Donald Trump is 73. Joe Biden, his opponent is 77. House speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is 78.

The average age of members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress in 2018 was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years. That is, among the oldest in U.S. history. I'd say they've had their chance, and squandered it. 

"Change will not come from our seniors, but from our youth," said Rhodes.

Emanuel Wilkerson will, at the drop of a hat, tell you that when he was elected to the Pottstown School Board while still a high school student that he was "the youngest elected official in Pennsylvania."

He makes a good point. Maybe it is time to let this younger generation take the wheel. It would be hard
for them to do worse.

One thing I hope they do learn how to do is go to the polls. Although cynicism about voting, and the choices we're offered, can be a tough thing to overcome, we've all seem what happens when people don't bother to vote at all.

And that was a point the Rev. Justin Valentine, pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Pottstown, drove home as he closed up the protest.

Have a listen.


  1. How do we find out about upcoming events?

    1. You could read this blog, which announced this event several days ago:

    2. Or subscribe to your local newspaper, which also announced it:

  2. i wonder if koosh=koosh and Weand and the other leftist extremist were shouting the black lives matter mantra. WHAT DO WE WANT? DEAD COPS. WHEN DO WE WANT THEM? NOW, COPS ARE PIGS FRY LIKE BACON. soinds like a reasonable request.

  3. Not a word in your blog about the thousands of folks who were on high st last Saturday night peacefully assembled enjoying the hot weather and Pottstown's restaurant renaissance. Not to mention the classic cars and hot rods cruising.

    1. You mean the one no one told me about? On my day off?

    2. Was Sunday June 6th a day off for you as well? It was conveniently not I guess

    3. Well, Sunday was June 7, not June 6. And I worked 7 hours without pay that day to cover something that I knew about ahead of time and was unique and timely.
      No, I did not work also Saturday, June 6, which was my birthday by the way, to cover something no one told me about ahead of time that happens with some frequency.
      What part of that are you struggling to understand? I can't cover something no one tells me is happening.
      Instead of complaining about lack of coverage, why don't you resolve to let us know ahead of time so it can get covered, if we have anyone available>
      FYI, as the only Mercury reporter left working in Pottstown, I don't work 7 days a week.