“Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” It’s a statement used across the nation to protest police killings. But now, that phrase is costing a Dauphin County youth group a donation from police, after they put it on their fundraising flier.
Steelton Youth In Action is an after-school group of about 60 kids that meets three times a week with donated meals and homework help. The group is asking for donations to get uniforms and equipment for a new baseball program. Reverend Beverly Taylor says the Steelton Police Department offered to donate $200. She’s a volunteer and organizer for the group; all of the staff are volunteer.
“Being a part of Steelton Youth in Action, we have always been friends with police,” says Taylor.
But then, a police officer saw the flier on Facebook and let the group know the department would not be donating after all.
Organizers say the phrase “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” was meant as an educational message for the kids, to teach them to “follow directions” from police.
“We just want them to understand that if they’re in any kind of situation that they feel threatened and the police officer says to them, ‘Hands up’ they have the right to say ‘don’t shoot,'” says Joyce Culpepper, secretary of the group. “But it’s been taken out of context because of what all’s been going on.”
The statement is often used in protests across the country, after the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
The Steelton Police Chief did not respond to our request for comment.
But the Steelton Mayor, Tom Acri, says officers took a vote and decided not to donate.
He says Steelton has its own baseball league that accepts all kids who want to play. And he’s “disappointed” that the group put that logo on a poster about a children’s group.
Youth in Action leaders say they hope the police department will reconsider but they understand why they withdrew the donation.
“They have a right to do that,” says Culpepper. “But they should’ve come to us and said this is what’s going to happen.”
Taylor calls the incident a “lesson learned.”
“I hope the police will support the team and not only support the team, the young men,” she says. “My grandson as a matter of fact, he’s only 7. He wants to be a police officer.”