on August 24, 2014 at 7:20 PM
About two dozen protesters rallied outside a police substation before marching through Allentown this afternoon to send authorities and residents the message they won't let the city become "another Ferguson."
The activists from Allentown and Bethlehem borrowed chants like "No Justice, No Peace," and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." The phrases have become rallying cries for those in Ferguson, Missouri, who have skirmished with police as they protest the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
The local protesters also drew chalk outlines of bodies on the sidewalk, imitating a police crime scene.
Cynthia Rodriguez, who has lived in the city for more than 20 years, said the protesters wanted to show authorities they aren't going to tolerate the kind of behavior displayed by police in Missouri.
"Sometimes it takes something like (Ferguson) that's on national news at night for people to recognize there's a problem," Rodriguez said. "Allentown is not going to become another Ferguson. We want to try and prevent that."
Mayor Ed Pawlowski did not immediately return a voice message requesting comment late this afternoon.
Rodriguez held a sign she made that read "Attention Police: Anything you say and do can and will be posted on YouTube." Exposure, she said, is a big way to prevent police from exercising unnecessary force because they'll know people are watching.
Members of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Decarcerate PA organized the gathering.
Rodriguez said she plans to hold a candlelight vigil at Seventh and Hamilton streets in a few weeks to recognize and pray for victims of police violence and their families.
Many drivers honked as they passed the protesters as they stood on the corner of 10th and Hamilton Streets with signs that read, "Don't condone violence with apathy - Stand up!" and "Stop Police Brutality." The latter sign had a crossed-out picture of a police officer brandishing a club.
Jahnaiya Branford, a 13-year-old Allentown resident, said getting traced for the chalk drawing was difficult for her.
"I feel bad for the people who have been shot for no apparent reason," Branford said.
After a little more than 30 minutes, the protesters made their way down Hamilton Street and continued their demonstration at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the intersection with Seventh Street.
Their march eventually brought them to the Lehigh County Jail on North Fourth Street, where inmates heard their shouts and started banging on the windows. A police officer who drove past the group gathered across the street from the jail honked, smiled and waved.
Maurice White, who moved back to Bethlehem from Virginia, said he knows there are great police officers, but they're standing behind the bad ones because of the Blue Wall -- an unwritten rule that police won't report wrongdoing by one of their own. White said it needs to stop, and citizens need to support police who are willing to break it.
It's up to residents to make sure law enforcement is doing right by them, White said.
"If we don't stand up for justice in our country, we can't expect someone else to do it for us," he said. "We are supposed to monitor what the government is doing in our name."