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What Black Lives Matter Has Revealed About Small-Town America

Few involved in the protests believe that the politics of the county had somehow been transformed overnight. Trump flags still hang from front porches all over the county, and on local Facebook pages, many commenters mock the protesters as ignorant and wasting their time. Many of the young people doubt much will come of this at all. “Once everything slows down,” said Ms. Leydig, “people will just go back to their ways.”

Still, there are some developments. The district attorney is forming an advisory group on racial matters. The meetings of Racial Reconciliation, which held a large demonstration in late June, are markedly bigger than they were. The liberal groups have begun letter-writing campaigns to downtown businesses, urging them to publicly support Black Lives Matter.

The protests themselves, fueled by the young and often working class, have been hard to keep going. A young woman who had taken over the organizing in Chambersburg soon found her days growing too complicated, especially after her mother was suddenly evicted from public housing.

The task of organizing transferred to a local graduate student, Kristi Rines, 30, who tries to keep a regular appointment in front of the church, taking meticulous notes about the ratio of honks to jeers (“3 p.m. — 4 p.m.; 9 incidents of backlash, 77 incidents of support”) but often standing by herself in the sweltering heat.

Ms. Wilkerson has tried to show up, but it is hard with children and a full-time job. She teaches teenagers at a private juvenile detention center in the county, and as one of the few Black employees, has been one of the only ones who will talk with the boys there about what has been happening outside.

“They heard how they’re changing names of syrup bottles and they’re canceling TV shows,” Ms. Wilkerson said. Her students tell her that they had never asked for any of those things, instead wanting “an end to watching my friends get beat up and watching my uncles and fathers and brothers get arrested over small amounts of marijuana.”

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