Yorkers rally to protest police shootings

Christopher Dornblaser, 505-5436/@YDDornblaser

Four words echoed throughout the streets of York City on Friday night.

Joell Cora, of York City, leads community members down Beaver Street in a "No Justice, No Peace" chant during the anti-violence rally Friday, July 8, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

"No justice, no peace."

Hundreds of concerned Yorkers rallied in peaceful protest to denounce recent police shootings of black men.

The Tuesday shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, in Louisiana, and the Wednesday shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in Minnesota, have sparked national outrage, prompting protests across the country. 

York City's police chief says officers feel under attack

Here in York County, citizens are reacting similarly.

Rally: Groups of people met at Cherry Lane and Penn Park in the city and eventually converged in front of the York City Police Department, 50 W. King St.

Although the destination was the police department, many people at the rally said they did not have many issues with police in York City, but they wanted to bring awareness to the overarching issue of police brutality.

In front of the department, members of the community prayed, read poems and chanted in unison.

Before the rally, Shontaye Weedon, of York City, sat at Penn Park with her two children and two stepchildren. She and her children were holding up signs, "All Lives Matter," with some containing Bible verses.

"No matter what color, we just need to stick together," she said.

She emphasized the community sticking together and said she is instilling a message in her children.

"You're always supposed to push forward," she said.

Jada Richardson, of York City, organizer of the Penn Park meeting, said she was angry when she heard of the shootings and felt compelled to act.

Richardson said she is hoping that the rally will help bring awareness to the shootings and lend support for her city. She encouraged people to raise their voices, to speak out.

Toward the end of the protest, Abu Samia, of York City, addressed the crowd, urging the crowd not to blame all police for the actions of a few bad ones. 

 Samia said afterward that he felt compelled to say something in support of the police.

"When (the police) are around, I feel safer," he said. 

He urged people in the city to be more vigilant when it comes to violence, adding that police brutality won't change without street violence changing.

"It goes both ways," he said. 

Message: On Thursday night, five police officers were killed in Dallas during a protest there. Carla Christopher, community activist in York City, said Friday night's event was planned before the police officers were killed in Dallas. At first, the group considered postponing the rally but decided against it.

Christopher said the group aimed to protest both the killing of the black men by police officers and the ambush on the officers in Dallas.

“We’re still gathering for the same reason, to prevent violence, to try to stand in support, so it’s the same thing," she said.

Christopher said she wanted to stress that she does not want the conversation on police brutality to get lost because of the Thursday night shootings.

"That was an isolated incident that should not represent African-Americans," she said. “The real important story, the longer story, the broader story, is that an entire race of people are targets, and feel like targets ... and we don’t want that story to get lost.” 

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.