Dozens of protesters picnicked together in Lancaster on Sunday as they prepared to meet with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey today to discuss systemic racism and how police treat black Americans.

About 70 citizens marched from the city police department to Reservoir Park about a mile and a half east on King Street to eat, talk about the upcoming conversation and foster community among the protesters. 

“We want to have our voices heard by the senator,” said Nyzair Dixon, 23, who was credited with finding explosives planted during the marches downtown earlier this week.

Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is expected to meet with about 20 protesters Monday as marches enter their third week since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked international outrage over police brutality and racism. 

A spokesman for the senator could not be reached for comment on Sunday. Casey was invited to Lancaster by Mayor Danene Sorace, who also could not be reached for comment. 

“Our main goal is just to start giving back to our community and start seeing a change,” Dixon said.

“That’s all we want at the end of the day,” said Carlos Jimenez, 22, who is a leader of the protesters that has been gathering in the city for the past week. 

Kevin Pond, a protester at the forefront of the movement, said those included in the discussion with Casey are meticulously prepping.

Community picnic

On Saturday, a press release from the mayor threatened to put the kibosh on what was initially planned as a family gathering that would have closed a city street.

“As Mayor, I am required to consider that there is no permit to completely shut down a city block continuously, to prepare food without license, and to provide other manner of services...when those services are precluded during the yellow phase,” said Sorace in a statement.

However, with some maneuvering and the required permits, protesters were able to move the proceedings to Reservoir Park.

“Today’s focus is the community,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been focusing so much on change, so we wanted to make a day where we do something for the people that we’re trying to get change for.”

Kids played with bubble wands while adults took the time to recharge after a long week of protesting. A truck played songs such as “Changes” by 2Pac and “Freedom” by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, reminding the assembled community members of the central goal at hand. Later in the day, DJs provided the backbeat to dancing under the pavilion.

“I just want to see some positive change in our community, and us having a family day together is the perfect way, Dixon said. “We couldn’t give out haircuts like we wanted to, but we’ve got a toy drive and food drive if families are hungry, come down here. We’re just trying to help give back to the community.”

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