Upper Merion Township is a community comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. We are extremely proud of this diversity, and we as individuals and the township actively work to cultivate and support our differences. A diverse Upper Merion is one that is inclusive of all persons, races, ethnicities, religions, and beliefs. Diversity is what makes this place home. It’s how we grow and learn and relate to each other; how we raise our children and interact with our neighbors. It is acceptance of our differences that makes our community welcoming, vibrant, and strong.
The horrific violence that we have recently witnessed against people of color in Georgia, Minneapolis, and elsewhere in the country have stirred up justifiable emotions of concern, grief, and anger in individuals of all backgrounds. Individuals have a constitutional right to express these emotions. On Saturday, May 30, members of our community gathered in a peaceful protest against this discrimination. Those protesters, along with the Upper Merion Police Department, demonstrated exactly how a peaceful protest works: non-violent, non-threatening freedom of expression from the public and tolerance from the authorities.
Unfortunately, a separate event took place hours later at the King of Prussia Mall, which erupted into chaos as hundreds of people descended on the mall to loot and destroy property. To be clear, this rioting was a completely separate incident and had no connection with the peaceful protest that took place earlier in the evening. We have no way of knowing whether or not Upper Merion residents were among them, but we sincerely hope that is not the case. Although nine individuals were arrested, none of them were from Upper Merion. We know we are better than this.
The act of protesting has been used for centuries to express feelings and inspire change. Violence, rioting, and looting do nothing to advance any just cause, and ultimately undermine the gravity and sincerity of those who peacefully protest injustice.
Let us be clear: we strongly condemn the acts of violence, looting, and rioting, and will not tolerate it in our community. We wholeheartedly support the expression of First Amendment Rights via peaceful protests, and love to see a community actively engaged in matters that resonate both locally and across the nation, but violence is unacceptable. We support an individual’s right to constitutional free speech, assembly and protest, but cannot accept wanton violence, uncivil discourse or looting.
We are grateful to the first responders from Upper Merion and other municipalities who handled the situation with grace and professionalism and kept us all safe, and to our community members who stood up for their convictions in a non-violent and non-destructive way. We will not let this one event define us, but rather use it to grow and learn.
Stay involved, and stay safe.
Hate has no home here.