MIFFLINBURG — A Sunday afternoon rally against homophobia, transphobia, and racism brought out about 175 people who stood on sidewalk corners along both sides of Chestnut Street (Route 45), between First and Seventh streets.

Meanwhile, a group of about 15 people supporting President Donald Trump waved flags at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets.

Early on, there was little to no confrontation between the groups, other than some heated conversation about freedom of speech. Hot summer temperatures in the 90s did nothing to help cool tempers. Although there were some heated discussions, all of the gatherings remained peaceful.

Organizer Victoria Mathews, of the "I Am Alliance" group, said before the rally that "we are here today to stand with, and for the LGBTQ+ community, and against discrimination, false beliefs and bigoted mindsets."

Although there were designated “corner captains” along the protest route to reinforce social distancing standards among participants, at some spots, there was clearly no distancing.

Water, latex gloves, and masks were available to corner captains, said organizer Mary Collier, of Lewisburg. Members of the "If Not Us, Then Who?" group joined the rally, and led chants of "No Justice, No Peace."

Marlene Westin, of Lewisburg, carried a sign, "Being Black is not a crime."

Westin, who is not Black, said that she was compelled to demonstrate after seeing what is going on in Portland, Oregon, and in other cities. "It made me think, you need to be heard, the things I think," she said.

Also on hand at the demonstration was Selinsgrove Councilman Christopher Kalcich.

"I'm here to support the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter because they play hand-in-hand. Black trans —as a group — are killed disproportionately compared to any other minority group in the country," he said.

A bus displaying Trump 2020 signs was parked on Chestnut Street, between Third and Fourth streets. The driver declined to give his name but allowed people to snap photos of his vehicle.

Damon Shore drove up from Dauphin County to display a flag that melded stars-and-stripes and the Confederate flag symbol.

"I'm here not to downplay the message of Black Lives Matter, but to say 'All Lives Matter,'" he said. 

Trucks and cars drove by, beeping their horns.

One driver displayed a sign on his car: "I dig coal. No green deal."

As the demonstration began, Mifflinburg Chief of Police Jeffrey Hackenberg walked the streets. "I'm telling everybody don't block the intersections, stay off the road. Other than that, as long as things are done peacefully, it's under the First Amendment."

Mifflinburg Mayor David Cooney's main concern was the safety of demonstrators lined along the state highway, as cars and pickup trucks sped by.

"I'm not objecting to the message," Cooney said, during the demonstration. "Everyone has free speech. Whatever is happening today, I just want it to happen in a safe manner," he said. "I'm seeing people standing on the sidewalk inches from the roadway, whole cars drive by at 25 mph. I would say that is not a safe situation."

A few hours after the demonstration ended, when asked if there had been any arrests, Cooney said, "I can't comment on that." Asked if there had been any incidents, he also said, "No comment on that."

Other groups supporting the Pride Event included Green New Deal of Lewisburg, the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society and Mifflinburg Against Racism and Hate.

— Daily Item Reporter Eric Scicchitano contributed to this report.


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