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State College Community Rallies At ‘Justice For George Floyd’ Protest

Hundreds of State College community members took to the streets Sunday afternoon to protest police brutality and racial injustice following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among others.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. His death sparked protests, rallies, and riots throughout the nation, including one right in Happy Valley.

The rally began at noon at the Allen Street Gates, where protestors congregated with colorful signs and spoke to the crowd before marching down College Ave., Beaver Ave., McAllister Ave., and more.

Former Penn State men’s basketball star Lamar Stevens was perhaps the most notable figure to address the crowd Sunday. He gave a heartfelt speech and encouraged community members to participate, “ask questions,” and fight for equal rights.

“We’re fighting for each other, and equal rights,” Stevens said. “If you don’t understand what it’s like being black, then it’s time to start asking questions. It’s time to start educating yourself about what it’s like, being a kid and having my mom hug me like it’s the last time she’s going to see me, every single time I walk out the door.”

State College Mayor Ron Filippelli also spoke before the crowd. Donning a face mask, he emphasized the protest was “the right place to be” and commended those for advocating for justice.

“We made a movement locally and nationally that stays with it,” Filipelli said. “And we have some events coming up, as you know, that will offer everyone the possibility to participate, to vote, and be activists, and to stick with the cause.”

Protestors then began marching on College Ave. and Beaver Ave., which had been blocked off by local law enforcement officers between McAllister and Burrowes. They chanted “black lives matter” as they made their way throughout the borough, eventually winding up outside the State College Municipal Building a short while later.

Outside the municipal building, Penn State football offensive lineman CJ Thorpe spoke to the crowd, captured by 247Sports intern Grace Brennan. There, he delivered a passionate speech and implored community members to “stay smart” and take action against racial injustice as best they can.

“It’s hard. It’s hard. I know it’s hard. I know it is hard for you to step back out of your own pride, out of your own anger, out of your own fear,” Thorpe said. “It’s hard guys, I know. All I ask is that we stay smart and that we use our brain and that we use love. Like people have been saying — I’ve only heard it three times, talking about love — but that shit is so important. Now more than ever because we have so much hatred going around. You can’t fight hate with hate, man.”

Once protests had slowly winded down, many community members left their signs behind at the Allen Street Gates for all to see.

Before the protest, numerous local leaders, including James Franklin, Eric Barron, and Filippelli, issued statements condemning Floyd’s death and encouraging Penn Staters to speak out against racial injustice. Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper announced the team would honor Floyd by retiring No. 5, his basketball number in college, for the 2021 season.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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