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Black Lives Matter march in Lebanon stays peaceful

Written by Merriell Moyer/Lebanon Daily News | Jul 11, 2016 6:02 AM
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A group of people march along Eighth Street in Lebanon during a Black Lives Matter march in Lebanon on Sunday, July 10, 2016. The group marched from the Lebanon Middle School to the Lebanon County Municipal Building. Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

(Lebanon) -- A Black Lives Matter march occurred in the city Sunday afternoon, but not to protest the Lebanon City Police Department.

"A lot people ask, 'Why Lebanon? The relationship between the community and the police seems like it is good.' I agree," Tito Valdes, one of the event's organizers, said. "That's why we didn't call it a protest. This is just an expression of solidarity for the Black Lives movement and an expression of solidarity for ending the system that subjugates black and brown bodies."

The march began at the Lebanon Middle School, 350 N. Eighth St., and ended on the steps of the Lebanon County courthouse, 400 S. Eighth St.

The Black Lives Matter movement is "an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise," and "an affirmation of black folks' contributions to this society, our humanity and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression," according to The Black Lives Matter website.

"We are doing this because of all the events we've seen happen over the past couple of years - the unfair, inhumane treatment of African Americans and other minority groups," Jorian Ginnetto, co-organizer, said. "In Lebanon, we have a diverse demographic, we have multiple races represented here, and I feel if we all support this one movement it could make a lot of noise because it helps to have multiple races acknowledging what is going on."

Valdes, who is studying to be a lawyer, and Ginnetto, a psychology student at Lebanon Valley College, were both born and raised in the city, and they expressed to those assembled at the middle school that they wanted to keep the march peaceful.

"If we come into contact with people as we're walking, people who are trying to downplay our cause or say something against it, just ignore it and take the high road, as difficult as it may be," Ginnetto told the crowd of around 30 people.

And there were occasional passers-by who shouted derogatory remarks from their cars or porches, but there were also people who joined the march along the way or shouted their support from passing vehicles. Despite the moments of negativity, the march did remain peaceful.

"God is love and God is peace, and there are obstacles against us, but we want to keep moving forward," Oscar Coward, a Lebanon resident who joined the march, said. "People may not think anything is going on in Lebanon, but just because hatred and prejudice isn't necessarily going on in your backyard, it doesn't mean you shouldn't participate."

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Tito Valdes (left) and Jorian Ginnetto (right), organizers of the Black Lives Matter march in Lebanon, speaks on the steps of the Lebanon County Municipal Building in Lebanon on Sunday, July 10, 2016. The group marched from the Lebanon Middle School to the Lebanon County Municipal Building. Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

Another Lebanon resident participating in the march felt that a show of solidarity like this one should have happened much sooner.

"We should have done this a long time ago, and it's sad that tragedy had to happen to bring us all together," Darnell Harris said. "We have to stop all this violence."

When the march ended at the courthouse, Valdes and Ginnetto took a moment to speak to those who marched with them.

"Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives do not matter," Valdes said. "You are able to be pro-black and pro-cop, and you can mourn the deaths of those officers in Dallas who were doing their jobs and protecting those protesters, and at the same time recognize that we live in a country where black and brown bodies are subjugated."

Valdes's and Ginnetto's speeches called for true equality for people of every race and gender along with ending race-related violence.

Lebanon resident Sonia Torres brought her 5-year-old son, Lucas Ramos, to the march to help him understand the importance of equality.

"My mom babysits him during the day, and she has the news on, so he hears bits and pieces about what's going on," Torres explained. "He's listening to adult conversations, so I didn't want him to misunderstand what was going on."

To that end, Torres explained to Lucas that innocent people were dying in the United States because of the color of their skin, and then broke down why it was happening so he could better understand, she said.

After Valdes and Ginnetto finished their speeches, 5-year-old Lucas stood up and addressed the crowd.

"The color of a person's skin doesn't matter," he said. "What's in our hearts is what matters most."

Officers from the Lebanon City Police Department were on hand to ensure the safety of those participating in the Black Lives Matter march Sunday afternoon.

"If you guys have any problems on the way, just call," an officer told the crowd at the beginning of the march while they were waiting at the middle school Eighth Street. "We will be close by, so if you need anything, please call us."

The officer then gave the crowd and the event's organizers a bit of advice on where to assemble once they got to the courthouse.

"When you guys get to the courthouse, I would suggest using the main entrance because there is more room there to spread out," the officer said. "But that is only a suggestion."

Two officers in an SUV shadowed the march from a distance, but as they promised, they did not interfere with the march.

"We are here to make sure everything goes smoothly, and that it is done in a safe manner," the officer said. "Other than that, we will stay out of the way."

 

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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