NCC criminal justice grad organizes peaceful protest
Matty Fall '20, NCC criminal justice graduate and current student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
I left my apartment in NYC due to the pandemic and I've been back in Bethlehem since late March. Remote learning is definitely not something I like or want to continue to do, but I must.
Recent events involving more police brutality, including George Floyd and many other black lives lost, have me feeling extreme heaviness and sadness. It breaks my heart knowing that people who look like me suffer so much in this country. It breaks my heart to know that my life and countless others have been deemed less valuable than others.
I woke up Friday morning after seeing more and more videos, and news, and felt so overwhelmed with emotions. As angry, as sad, and as frustrated as I felt I wanted to protest. I debated going back to NYC and risking everything for our voices to be heard and for us to be seen. I then decided that may not be the best option so I turned to my friend, Mike, whose (Latinx) family I've been staying with throughout this pandemic. When I told Mike I wanted to protest, as a supportive friend and ally, he said "So let's go." He then whipped up a poster with his graphic design skills, and we spread it everywhere we thought anyone would see it. Taped it around town, all over social media, and to friends and family.
To our surprise, we received a ton of support. A group called Lehigh Valley Stands Up reached out and offered their help with the organization and set up but ultimately credited me. Over 1,000 people from Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley came on May 30 at the Rose Garden in Bethlehem and offered to volunteer with traffic, snacks, water, signs, etc. A few city council members, and local news stations also showed. We never expected to reach such a large number of people to come out and support, especially here.
We gave speeches, informed people on how to make changes by using their voices, voting, reaching out to elected officials, and how to be supportive of black people. I then lead the entire march from the Rose Garden by Nitchsmann Middle School to the Bethlehem public library and back. We tried our absolute hardest to emphasize that we wanted to remain peaceful and that we did not want to invoke nor did we condone any kind of violence. We also wanted to attempt to maintain distance and everyone wore masks. We did a wonderful job at maintaining peace, news broadcasters and many others agreed. There wasn't a heavy police presence but they did a good job of guiding us back to the Rose Garden as we took up an entire side of the street there and back. It was a very emotional, as well as political, experience with the signs and chants.
I never thought my one voice with the help of others could reach so many. I've never organized any kind of protest before, and to my knowledge Bethlehem hasn't had one like this. This was the best experience ever. I'll cherish it for the rest of my life. People have thanked me and have shared personal experiences with me during the protest. They've told me how big of a change I've made in the community and just how important what we did was. I will never stop fighting for what I believe in. I am doing this for all the black bodies who couldn't. I am doing this because I don't agree with the treatment of people who look like me in this country. I am not proud of the state of our country right now, but I will do whatever I can to make sure one day we can all feel proud and know that WE used our voices and did whatever we could to invoke change. That is why I'm in the field of criminal justice, this system was designed in a way that does not suit people who look like me well. I will continue to fight and do what I can to create change.