“We need health care, not police care,” Larry Blalock said Saturday during a demonstration outside Johnstown police headquarters.

A group of about two dozen protesters demanded answers concerning recent police actions and pushed for reallocation of some of the police budget for community needs.

Johnstown Healthcare Rights Committee of Put People First! PA led the rally, which began with speakers at the Central Park gazebo.

“We are here to keep people organized and place pressure on the city and police with concrete demands,” committee member Akilah Triplin said.

Signs and speakers claimed that 22% of the city budget is allocated to police.

From Central Park, the group marched to the Public Safety Building, where several participants shared personal stories of encounters with Johnstown police.

The march continued up Washington Street to Union Street and then along Main Street, ending at City Hall, where the group’s demands were read:

• Creation of public health alternatives to protect Johnstown residents from alleged aggressive police practices.

• Holding officers "accountable" for a June 17 incident where force was used during the apprehension of George Corson Jr.

• Releasing the state police report and names of officers involved in the killing Elip Cheatham on June 25, 2012, providing what the group called needed transparency in the Johnstown Police Department.

• Protecting "human rights" during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the right to health care, housing and eviction relief.

Saturday’s march also paused at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Lee campus to call on Conemaugh executives to provide a better procedures for dealing with mental health situations.

Conemaugh staff alerted police when Corson, who has mental health issues, left the hospital, organizer Blalock said.

The committee is planning two virtual events next week to continue the push, Blalock said.

Information is available on the group’s website, putpeoplefirstpa.org.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

Recommended for you