ATHENS TOWNSHIP — Despite profanities, middle fingers and ill will wished to a small group of Valley Black Lives Matter protesters this week, the group is continuing to organize for a better future.
The newly founded group, Creating Change FTP Sayre, began organizing Valley residents on Wednesday during an ad hoc Black Lives Matter protest on Elmira Street in front of Walmart in Athens Township. The Wednesday protest was originally organized on Facebook but just before the protest was supposed to begin some of the organizers said they would not go.
Savannah Drummond, a Scranton bartender who was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was planning on attending the protest with friends and family from the Valley area but when she arrived she discovered that the assembly’s leaders were absent.
Drummond, who has organized numerous Black Lives Matter protests in the Scranton and surrounding areas, decided to help fill the vacuum and lead the movement after protesters asked for her help. She said on Wednesday that any BLM protest is naturally a leaderless groundswell movement, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be parts of the groundswell doing most of the organizing.
“There’s real interest here,” Drummond told the Review. “Every protester is a leader.”
The protest lasted from 1 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m. and around 30 people joined in the group throughout the day as they held signs in protest of police brutality near the Walmart entrance on Elmira Street. The group said that they had received a lot of pushback from passersby in the form of middle fingers and profanities yelled at them.
“For every middle finger there are four or five people telling us to keep going,” Drummond said of the reception of the protest. “Some even came by and dropped of food and water for us.”
Many Black Lives Matter protests of police brutality have been diminished by authorities and local leaders saying that the groups are not locals, but outside agitators. Drummond said it’s true that she does not live in the Valley, but that she has spend a lot of time there with family and has experienced instances of racism while there.
“I’ve seen my family been called (racial expletives), ask any person of color living here if they have experienced it,” she recounted. “There’s no opinions on this. There’s right and wrong.”
She went on to say that just because the Valley and Bradford County area are predominantly white, poor and rural doesn’t mean that they cannot stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality, while a predominately person of color issue, still affects poor white people as well she remarked.
“They have the same enemy, a lot of them just don’t see it,” Drummond said of lower-class white people in rural areas. “A lot have the same mentality as the wealthy but suffer the same as the oppressed.”
The Creating Change FTP Sayre chapter is organizing for more protest in the future in the Valley. The group will have a dedicated Facebook page for the Sayre chapter soon and asks that anyone wishing to communicate with them do so through email, email@example.com.
When asked what the group hopes to achieve with the protests, Drummond said she hoped they could make progress in achieving a collective consciousness of what power is with all oppressed people in the area through education.
“Education is the key,” she said.