Though Ethan Palmer is 14 years old, he said his young age isn’t a factor in fighting for what he thinks is right.
He was one of about 20 people Thursday afternoon who participated in a rally that supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
But even as a teen — and one of the youngest protesters in the rally — Ethan said he wants to start giving back as early as he can to a campaign that fights for equality and justice.
“I’m here because black people, and all people of color for that matter, are disproportionately killed by civilians and by police officers, and it’s to the point where there is most certainly a pattern,” he said. “It’s not just a scattered incident.”
The central Pennsylvania chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice rallied on the sidewalk in front of Penn State’s Allen Street Gates.
It was made of a group of white, and non-black, locals with signs that said “Black Lives Matter,” “White silence equals violence” and “End white silence.”
Member Susan Prill, of Huntingdon, said organizers reached out to people through social media to join the rally.
“It’s just a way for us to peacefully engage in conversation about this issue,” she said. “There is a lot of backpedaling on this issue because some people don’t understand.”
When asked how she responds to those who say “all lives matter,” she said, “but all lives are not as equal.”
“There are some (who) are more at risk in this day and age,” Prill said. “It’s happening all the time, and it’s about time we respond. White people care about black lives.”
Fellow member and co-organizer of the rally, Amy Cohen, said one of the missions was to help people look past the “all lives matter” statement that she said has an implied meaning that “everything is OK, when it’s not.”
“We advocate for all, but this is more of an equality issue,” Cohen said.
And the rallying is only one step in an ongoing process.
“We have a lot of work to do that includes raising awareness about the issue in different ways,” Cohen said.
She said the group also works with black community groups and organizations on campus to help promote the message.
“We want to make sure what we’re doing aligns with their message,” Cohen said.
The rallies are meant to be peaceful.
Prill said the group talks about how to de-escalate a situation that could turn violent.
“We promote safety,” she said. “Not all people agree, and that’s OK, but we’re not here to start anything.”
Prill said the local chapter of SURJ held a protest earlier this year at a Donald Trump rally in Harrisburg.
When members saw signs that it could have turned violent, the group left.
“We’re just in the fight for freedom for black folks and rallying to urge change among white folks for the first time,” Cohen said.