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July 7, 2022
Inside this edition: Police officer that killed Tamir Rice hired in Tioga borough, protesting for reproductive rights, and standup paddleboard yoga. Plus, the website for Spotlight PA's State College regional bureau is live!

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Fired, hired, withdrawn
The police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014 was hired by Tioga borough in north-central Pennsylvania, but has since withdrawn his application following public outcry.

Timothy Loehmann — who was fired in 2017 from the Cleveland police department after the city said he lied on his application — was sworn in Tuesday, according to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

The borough council's vote was unanimous.

"I was under the understanding, through our police committee and our Borough president, that they did an extensive background check on him," Mayor David Wilcox told WENY. "Everything checked out, everyone they spoke to, clean record ... and that was my understanding."

Protesters gathered at the borough offices Wednesday night after learning the news, according to WENY. Steve Hazlett, borough council president, confirmed Thursday that Loehmann had withdrawn his application.

Tioga borough has a population of about 700 people, and only has one police officer. Loehmann was never criminally charged in the Rice shooting and contested his firing from the Cleveland police department.
 
A Rare Rural Protest
Ashad Hajela / Spotlight PA
Real quick: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought an unusual sight to the popular annual Brockway Old-Fashioned Fourth of July: a protest. After their request to join the parade was denied, about 35 people decided to protest for reproductive rights alongside the event, which draws visitors from throughout Pennsylvania. Organizers told the abortion rights group that the parade lineup was already set, and the protest was not deemed “family-oriented.”

A bit more: The Brockway Old-Fashioned Fourth of July is a staple summer event that attracts thousands of people from around Pennsylvania, significantly inflating the population of a town of roughly 2,000 people. Churches, farmers, marching bands, and local groups’ floats are represented in the parade.

Bobbi Erickson, who works in the cafeteria at a local school, wanted her reproductive rights group to be among them but was told by event organizers that she tried to sign up too late and that the protest is not “family-oriented,” according to a text message from a parade organizer shared with Spotlight PA. (Parade organizers didn’t return calls from Spotlight PA.)

But Erickson, 32, and the group protesting for the right to safe abortion weren’t discouraged. They marched anyway, just prior to the start of the parade. The protesters — from Brockway and surrounding towns — marched up and down Main Street chanting “My body, my choice,” “Is it the state’s choice? No,” “Abortion is health care,” and “Separate church and state.”

The group was greeted both with support and with hecklers telling them to go home or giving them the middle finger. Others revved their cars and motorcycles when they drove by, in dissent.

Erickson has lived in Brockway, Jefferson County, for seven years, but she grew up in neighboring Elk County. She decided to organize the protest because she became angry and afraid after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed the right to abortion for decades.

Having never been part of a protest before, Erickson did a lot of research, spoke to the police chief, and even got in touch with the National Lawyers Guild to make sure she could protect those attending the protest. A legal observer from Pittsburgh also attended.

Erickson was raised by a father who votes for Democrats and a mother who votes Republican. On the day of the protest, she donned socks with images of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only after Ginsburg died did Erickson become passionate about the work the justice did for women.

It shocked Erickson how difficult it already was to get an abortion. When she was 20, she tried to help a friend get one, and the friend had to get a ride to Pittsburgh and pay $600, Erickson recalled.

Protests supporting reproductive rights need to be local and bring more attention to rural America, Erickson said.

“In this area, you sometimes feel you’re alone in your beliefs,” she said. But organizing the protest showed her there were more people like her in Brockway.

Ashad Hajela, rural affairs reporter
📝 More From Spotlight PA
» Pennsylvania's state budget is officially late. Here's what you need to know

» Pa. COVID updates: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests.

» A complete guide and amendment tracker for proposed changes to Pennsylvania's Constitution.

» PLUS: The new website for Spotlight PA's State College regional bureau is live! Keep up with news from north-central Pennsylvania here.
📷 Local Gem
Rural affairs reporter Ashad Hajela recently visited the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, which is almost 50 miles long and runs through Tioga and Lycoming Counties. Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
📰 In Other News
» A cryptocurrency mine brought noise pollution to a rural Pa. area (WPSU)

» Workers at The Meadows reject a union bid, a blow to organizers (Centre Daily Times )

» Greater Williamsport area levee work comes in $3M over budgeted cost (Williamsport Sun-Gazette)

» Centre County officials have concerns about state Rep. Scott Conklin's (D., Centre) domestic violence bill (Centre Daily Times)

» Elk County commissioners encourage participation in broadband survey (The Ridgway Record)
📅 Events
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» July 8-9: Muncy Historical Society's annual Quilt Show displays more than 120 traditional, antique, and vintage quilts of all style.

» July 9: Five bands perform at the third annual Mountain Music Memorial in Huntingdon.

» July 9-10: Shop housewares, craft supplies, toys, and games at an indoor yard sale benefiting the Altoona Food Bank.

» July 10: Explore public art in State College on a guided Downtown Art Walk hosted by Centred Outdoors.

» July 13: Budding artists sell their creations at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale.

PLUS: Join us today at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on the limitations of the state's police misconduct database and a discussion on other police accountability efforts. Register for the event here.
🏕 The Great Outdoors
Test your balance with a standup paddleboard yoga class at Whipple Dam State Park, located in northern Huntingdon County.

Hourlong classes are offered Sunday mornings and are followed by 30 minutes of free paddle time. The cost is $20 if you need a board and $10 if you bring your own.

You might even see turtles basking on Eagle Scout-made platforms as you paddle around the 22-acre lake.

Where do you like to spend time outside? Send us your favorite places!
🧩 The Puzzler
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

P A R S L E Y
 
Good luck!
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
 
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