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State College Community Members to Hold 'Justice for George Floyd' Rally; Barron Issues Statement

by on May 30, 2020 5:17 PM

State College community members will hold a rally on Sunday calling for justice for George Floyd.

Floyd, a 46-year-old, unarmed black man who had been accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill, died on Monday while police custody in Minneapolis, sparking protests in the Twin Cities and elsewhere around the country. A white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers looked on. Chauvin, who has been charged with third degree murder, continued kneeling after Floyd said he could not breathe and for nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. All four officers were fired.

The State College rally, organized by Penn State and State College Area High School students, will be held at noon at the Allen Street gates.

“I’m hoping that this protest, in conjunction with the hundreds of others across the country, will show politicians that the American people will not tolerate this unjust violence anymore," one of the organizers wrote in a statement. "The murder of people of color by the police is not limited by state or zip code, and is not a new occurrence. With this protest, we hope to honor the memory of George Floyd and all other victims of police violence by calling on our government to institute radical criminal justice reform, and to stop the persecution of African-Americans for the simple act of being black in America.”

Participants are asked to wear a mask in accordance with COVID-19 precautions and to bring water and signs.

In a statement on Saturday, Penn State President Eric Barron said the "tragic circumstances" of Floyd's death "makes clear yet again that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country. It is past time for change."

He said institutions of higher education "have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance," and expressed "profound compassion for all who live in fear that the color of their skin, gender identity, ethnicity or religion makes them a target of hate."

"We support our community as you express your sadness and anger through peaceful protest, and we know it is even more challenging to support and lift each other up during this global pandemic, with the added difficulty of social distancing," Barron said. "However, please know that our entire University community grieves with you, supports you and joins with you as we strive for positive change. 

Penn State football coach James Franklin also issued a statement on Saturday his "heart is broken" by the recent "senseless deaths" of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor." He said he is "gutted by this nation’s most recent tragedies and frustrated by our country’s inaction," but added he sees hope for the future in the young men he coaches. (Read more here.)

Barron's full statement is below:

To the Penn State community,

The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, following other recent unspeakable tragedies, makes clear yet again that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country. It is past time for change.

We cannot remain silent in the face of this heart-breaking reality. As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity and embrace the power that diversity represents. 

In the face of hatred and bias, we must speak out. We must not accept apathy, indifference or silence, otherwise we allow hatred, prejudice and intolerance to grow. 

Our message today is, foremost, one of profound compassion for all who live in fear that the color of their skin, gender identity, ethnicity or religion makes them a target of hate. Our hearts ache as we can only imagine the trauma, pain and frustration that many are feeling at this time. 

This message also reaffirms Penn State’s commitment to disrupting hate, bias and racism whenever and wherever we encounter it, and to creating the most inclusive and diverse community that we possibly can – one that is free of discrimination; one that embraces differences; and one that respects all individuals. 

We support our community as you express your sadness and anger through peaceful protest, and we know it is even more challenging to support and lift each other up during this global pandemic, with the added difficulty of social distancing. However, please know that our entire University community grieves with you, supports you and joins with you as we strive for positive change. 

Eric J. Barron

President, Penn State

OnwardState.com's Ryan Parsons contributed to this report.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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