Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins issue statements on weekend Erie protests that turned violent

ERIE, May 31 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie, issued the following statements today in response to reports that peaceful community protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent last night in Erie:

Bizzarro said, “The events of the weekend, and the senseless acts against black Americans, are weighing heavily on our nation and our community. The injustices and struggles people of color continue to endure are disgraceful and must end. While I may never fully understand all the challenges they face, I stand firmly against racism.

“Protesting is an important part of implementing change, but I believe our community must do so peacefully and without causing harm to others or property. I am calling for peace and unity in our community and for us to join together in support of our black neighbors, family and friends. They are afraid for their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and more. We must be there to comfort and support them in this time and emerge with a new respect and camaraderie so we can make meaningful and bold steps to eradicate racism.” 

Merski said, "This weekend in Erie, peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd erupted into violence. It isn’t hard to understand the anger: George Floyd’s death at the hands of police was brutal and senseless – and sadly, a familiar reality for so many Americans of color.  

"While destruction is not the answer, it is a painful realization that change is long overdue. The seeds for change are there – so many of our local men and women in law enforcement – including my father, who was an Erie County Sheriff – are good, decent people who share a sense of outrage with the rest of our community over this incident.

"As we call for an end to violence, we also need to act – to demand police professionalism and changes to societal systems that for too long have marginalized people of color -- so we can restore a dialog of trust.”

Harkins said, “I was deeply saddened with what unfolded last evening in Erie and across the country. The death of George Floyd was terrible, but this is no way to honor him – he wasn’t a violent person. We must work as a community and as a nation to correct the problem that faces us dealing with all races. As Bobby Kennedy once said, 'Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.'”