MORRISVILLE BOROUGH >> Hundreds of protesters rallied at Williamson Park Saturday afternoon for an end to racism.
The family-friendly, Black Lives Matter demonstration was organized by Morrisville Against Hate and the NAACP of Bucks County in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Our perception and experience of race directly impacts our life experiences," said organizers. "White privilege and racism are rampant in our culture, social systems, media, education and every aspect of our lives. Policing, housing, incarceration, employment are all ways in which white supremacy is maintained. State-sanctioned violence, which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people, must be stopped. As Angela Davis says, 'In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.'”
Among the first to address the rally was State Senator Steve Santarsiero who thanked everyone for coming out and the Morrisville Police Department for being there “to ensure our safety and our right to exercise our Constitutional rights.
“Black lives do really matter. And that’s not to say that all lives don’t. But it’s to recognize that for too long in the history of our country black lives have been treated as if they don’t matter,” he said. “This is a time in American history that we have to ensure that every person of color in this country enjoys the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.”
Santarsiero said the nation is at a “crossroads in our history ... We need to make sure that all of us are standing up and speaking out against injustice, that we are speaking out for tolerance and for acceptance for all cultures, that we are facing those with hate in their hearts and showing them nothing but love in response. Because ultimately that is what will change our world and not backing down and being vocal and standing up for what we know is right.”
Following the senator’s remarks, the crowd of about 400 protesters marched to East Bridge Street where they waved signs and chanted George Floyd’s name as traffic rolled by between the Trenton Makes Bridge and Delmorr Avenue.
“We’ve had an amazing turnout. Morrisville really showed up for us today. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy,” said Rachel Maysonet, one of the event’s organizers. “We are here to be peaceful and to spread awareness so everyone knows what’s going on in the world and here. We want racism to end. We want to do our part to end it.”
According to Maysonet, organizers received a lot of hate and resistance in planning the protest. “We’ve seen both support and resistance. That’s the reason why we’re here - the other half that’s showing the hate. And we want to get rid of the hate.”
Under the watchful eyes of the Morrisville Borough Police Department, the protesters marched back to Williamson Park where they heard remarks from students, the Peace Center and members of the Bucks County Chapter of the NAACP.
Maysonet had high praise for Morrisville Borough Police Department and in particular Chief George McClay. “He has been awesome with assisting us today. And we appreciate that.”
While the protesters continued their peaceful rally, Pastor Aden Rusfeldt, dubbed by the media as “The Philly Hate Preacher,” shouted down the protesters using a bullhorn, sometimes overpowering what the speakers were saying on stage with anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
As police stood nearby in the event of any clashes, BLM protesters largely ignored the man as he questioned the Black Lives Matter platform and wondered aloud why the group wasn’t talking about the growing African American death count in the nation’s big cities.
Organizers, at the start of the protest, had warned participants to expect several “hate groups” to make their voices known during the rally and encouraged the gathering to ignore any counter protesters.
“When they go low,” shouted organizers. “We go high,” shouted the crowd in response.
One counter protester was Pastor Aden. The others, organizers said, stationed themselves at the town’s Robert Morris statue at Pennsylvania Avenue and Bridge Street.
“That is wonderful. They are protecting it from I don’t know what. But they might get bored and come over here and yell. That’s fine,” said an organizer. “That’s their Constitutional right.”
In recent weeks, public statues of founding fathers and Confederate soldiers have been vandalized and toppled in cities and communities across the nation as part of the protests.
There was a group of people at the statue who appeared to be picking up trash and cutting weeds around the monument during Saturday’s protest. Two police cars also sat prominently on the Robert Morris Plaza, which has been a source of community pride for the town since its installation.
Robert Morris, the town’s namesake and prominent businessman, single-handedly financed the American Revolution. He was also a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and lived in the community.
The Morris statue, bought and paid for through community donations, was sculpted by the late Jim Gafgen, a resident of Morrisville who also sculpted the Harriet Tubman statue on the Bristol Borough waterfront.
Tubman was an abolitionist who fought against slavery and who rescued countless slaves from freedom through the Underground Railroad, a system of hiding spots located between the bondage of the south and the freedom of the north.