HARRISBURG- Under beautiful, sunny skies on this holiday weekend, local government officials, social justice advocates, and a diverse crowd of about 50 supporters gathered at the Sunken Garden in Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park to urge communities throughout Pennsylvania to embrace inclusion as a community value and reject the divisive tactic of anti-immigrant ordinances like those passed in Hazleton last year.
Speakers at the press conference included Linda Thompson of Harrisburg City Council; Homer Floyd, Executive Director of the PA Human Relations Commission; Jose Urdaneta of Lancaster City Council; Fabricio Rodriguez of Jobs with Justice; Toni Smith of York City Council; and Regan Cooper of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.
Thompson announced that Harrisburg City Council passed a resolution earlier in the week to join the National League of Cities’ Inclusive Communities program.
“Harrisburg has affirmed its place as an inclusive community,” Thompson said.
Floyd noted the PHRC’s concerns that ordinances like those in Hazleton lead to discrimination while Cooper called on the government to protect workers.
“The government needs to enforce its wage laws and its occupational safety and health laws,” she said.
Rodriguez and Smith talked about their own immigrant heritage. Rodriguez’s father emigrated to the United States from Ecuador, and Smith came here from Italy after World War II.
The press conference was organized in response to a rally at the capitol sponsored by Voice of the People, an anti-immigrant group from Hazleton. After the press conference, about 30-40 people in the crowd went to the capitol to offer a silent counter-message to the VOP’s hateful rhetoric.
VOP has held several rallies in northeastern PA, which have attracted about 200-250 people per event. Despite VOP’s claims that the Harrisburg event would their biggest rally yet, only about 100 people turned out to support VOP’s message. In addition, the VOP crowd included an obvious and significant number of skinheads and other white supremacists.
The press conference and silent presence was organized by the Pennsylvania Network of Unity Coalitions, Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, and the ACLU of PA. This ad-hoc working group is encouraging communities throughout the Commonwealth to counter the divisive tactics of group’s like VOP with similar events and activities, including unity festivals, pro-inclusion resolutions and ordinances from local government, and public press conferences. The working group also asks supporters to take a group photo with a sign that reads “No Hate in Our Town” and a second sign with the name of the town and send it to email@example.com. The group will post the photos at the No Hate in Our Town blog.
More information about the No Hate in Our Town campaign is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy in Harrisburg