About 100 people rallied to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Main Street in Fleetwood on Saturday, June 20.
The crowd lined the south side of the street between South Richmond and South Franklin streets for the two-hour demonstration. On the opposite side, between five and 10 people held a counter protest. Fleetwood police patrolled the area in cars and on bikes as some drivers passing by honked in appreciation. A few pickup trucks festooned with flags passed by, revving engines while occupants expressed opposition to the rally.
The Rev. Kimberly Berenotto, an assistant pastor at Good Shepherd UCC in Boyertown, lives a few houses away from where the rally was held. She has attended Black Lives Matter marches in Boyertown and Pottstown.
She said she attended the rally "because I truly believe we need to end the system of racism that treats people of color differently."
"Until everyone believes Black Lives Matter we can't really make all lives matter," she said.
Co-organizer Annalise McDowell, Reading, returned to her hometown for the rally. She said the area does not have a lot of people of color and she wanted to show support for African Americans and any person of color.
"I want to show them they can be comfortable and feel safe in this community," McDowell said.
Organizer Caitlin Smoker said that prior to the event, she sat down with Police Chief Steve Stinsky to assure him everything would be peaceful.
"I feel like we had a pretty good turnout," said Smoker, who estimated about 100 people attended.
Smoker, who grew up in Twin Valley, said it was important to show support in small towns and start a conversation about race.
"I'm just here to educate myself and everybody around me," Smoker said. As the country approaches the November election, Smoker said she hoped to reach out to younger people about issues that matter.
Smoker said she welcomed a conversation with those who disagreed with the rally.
"I think it's a lot of misunderstanding, really," Smoker said. "I think that's why it's important for us to be here. I do think it's important especially for the very few racially diverse families that we have in these small towns to understand that, yes, those voices are loud, but we're trying to be louder than they are and let you know that you are supported and welcomed here."