Protesters Rally for Officials to ‘Do the Right Thing’
People gather at the Beaver County Courthouse to raise awareness of several social and economic issues.
By Kirstin Kennedy
Beaver County Times
Oct 28, 2014 – BEAVER — Everyone knows the First Amendment gives citizens the right to assemble. Few regularly exercise it.
But that wasn’t the case Monday evening on the steps of the Beaver County Courthouse, when over 30 people gathered with signs and chants.
Willie Sallis, president of the NAACP in Beaver County, said he helped to gather the protest to pressure elected officials to "just do the right thing."
"What is the moral thing to do? … That’s what we’re trying to keep alive with the union and the civil rights leaders," he said. Sallis paired with several other organizations — including members of local labor unions — for the rally, with the hope of raising awareness of several social and economic issues.
Inspired by a recent lecture given locally by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Sallis dubbed the rally Moral Monday.
"What’s the right thing to do for the poor?" Sallis said. "What’s the right thing to do for health benefits? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to jobs? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to minimum wages? All we’re saying is, ‘Look, do the right thing.’"
On the courthouse lawn, participants chanted, "Keep it fair; we care."
One leader yelled to the crowd, "What do we want?" to which the protesters responded, "clean water," "education," "jobs" and "equality."
Kelly Mackaben of Beaver, one of those who attended the rally, said she has many concerns about the American political climate.
"I feel that our society has lost focus on its moral responsibility. Elections are being bought by corporations, and now a lot of the population doesn’t have a voice," she said. "I’m here because people are being overlooked, like the needy, the elderly, the disabled. A lot of people don’t feel they have a voice in the political system anymore."
Mackaben worries about the environment, about the quality of water and air. She said she feels that she has no influence over what she and her family breathe in every day.
"I don’t feel that our founding fathers wanted endless amounts of money going into elections. … I just feel there needs to be a more evenly distributed wealth system in our country. It’s just the inequality in our political system has gotten off kilter, and it’s time to look at the overall picture of where our country is heading."
Another member of the crowd, Carl Davidson of Raccoon Township, said he is a member of the United Steelworkers and a "longtime radical."
"Basically, we’ve just got to get a new bunch in office that will defend the everyday interest of the working class; it’s very simple. A good place to start is to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Cutting money to our schools is not right. Poisoning our water is not right," he said.
After gathering on the lawn, several speakers addressed the crowd on how race, gender, jobs and equal treatment affect a cultural sense of morality.
Erin McClelland, Democratic candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania’s 12th District, running against incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus, addressed issues with respect to the middle class.
"This is not about partisanship, this is about people standing up for the most vulnerable among us," she said. "That’s where the middle class was built. It was built on the idea of looking at the people next to you who are suffering in poverty, who are suffering without health care, who are suffering without basic needs — those are the real family values we all believe in."
Other speakers included a representative from a northwestern Pennsylvania-area labor federation, a member of the Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers Union, a representative of the National Organization for Women, and Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik.
"We’re not saying treat us any different," Sallis said. "We’re saying what is the right thing to do? … Just do the right thing."