If you have seen any protests focused on social justice issues in Chambersburg – either in person or online – you most likely saw Kristi Rines.
Written by Cathy Mentzer
After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last May, Rines began looking for local Black Lives Matter protests to take part in and was surprised to find one in her own hometown of Chambersburg. Rines not only joined the initial downtown protests that continued for several weeks during the summer. She continued to organize them herself throughout the fall, sometimes protesting as often as four to five days a week.
Since then, the 30-year-old social justice advocate and local native hasn’t looked back.
“I’ve been excited about all the social justice movements starting to crop up,” said the 30-year-old Rines said. “When I grew up here, there wasn’t anything.”
As soon as she became involved in the BLM protests in Chambersburg, Rines, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Shippensburg University, took an active role in organizing the protests. Rines Facebook page was often a go-to venue to find out when protests were taking place.
Rines uses her training in social work to organize and do research to augment the act of protesting, including recording overt responses to the BLM protests, such as passers-by honking horns, gesturing or making remarks. Of the nearly 7,000 responses she recorded, approximately 84 percent were positive.
Additionally, while violence dominated much of the talk surrounding the BLM movement, Rines said all of the BLM protests in Chambersburg were peaceful.
I’ve been excited about all the social justice movements starting to crop up,” said the 30-year-old Rines said. “When I grew up here, there wasn’t anything.”
Once the BLM protests began to wane, Rines focused her attention on local elected officials – namely, state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, for instance, Rines organized a campaign on Facebook to pressure local companies that advertise on state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s show on conservative radio station 103.7 FM to withdraw their support.
Mastriano, considered a front-runner for the 2022 GOP nomination for governor, helped organize a bus trip to the “Stop the Steal” rally – which took place prior to the insurrection– to show support for Trump and his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
“We want to get the list of advertisers out and ask them to take (Mastriano) off the air because this is dangerous to our democracy,” Rines said.
Mastriano responded to widespread criticism of the Jan. 6 trip in a news release condemning the violence at the Capitol and stating that he did not set foot on the Capitol steps or enter the building.
“The racial justice movement is essential.”
Rines has also targeted local state Rep. Rob Kauffman. She and her partner, Brendan Bittle, organized a protest outside Kauffman’s downtown Chambersburg office on Nov. 28 because he was among a group of state House members who introduced a resolution disputing the 2020 general election results in Pennsylvania.
A Long-Time Interest in Activism
Rines remembers first becoming aware of social justice issues, in the form of class disparity, when she was a high school student. But in college, her focus on gender and sexuality studies led to more revelations.
“We all live on different axes of oppression and marginalization,” said Rines, who identifies as bisexual and gender fluid. “Different types of oppression – racial, class-based, gender and sexuality-based – all of these interact to maintain the status quo. If you fix one, inevitably it will come back if you’re not dismantling it at all levels.”
Because of her own experiences and those of friends of color, “it’s helped me become deeply invested (in the BLM movement),” Rines added. “The racial justice movement is essential.”
Rines believes the protests in Chambersburg have succeeded in a number of ways, including making local officials aware of just how much support progressive causes have in the community. In one such example, Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal has credited the peaceful, persistent protests he heard through his courthouse window last summer with inspiring him to write a forceful public statement in support of the BLM movement.
“Different types of oppression – racial, class-based, gender and sexuality-based – all of these interact to maintain the status quo. If you fix one, inevitably it will come back if you’re not dismantling it at all levels.”
Rines passion for social justice issues has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
“It’s important to have grassroots energy from individuals like Kristi who can help further the cause,” said Franklin County Coalition for Progress president and founder Noel Purdy.
After graduation this spring, Rines plans to become licensed in social work and establish a practice that includes counseling. She also intends to continue her activism and research here, including keeping a focus on local issues.
“I don’t want to abandon the work that I’ve started here,” she said. “I know that (change) takes more than protesting. I think that it’s going to take a consistent mass of people throughout the country who are working together through a myriad of strategies. And I think individuals need to recognize the power that they have collectively.”