“A guide to the Philadelphia DNC that media won’t show you, from extreme poverty to police misconduct”
BOB HENNELLY, Salon
Just like their Republican counterparts in Cleveland, the delegates to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia will be sequestered far away from the daily misery and despair that’s the experience of their host city’s extreme poor.
This growing cohort of folks are overwhelmingly people of color and include tens of thousands of children who find themselves living in neighborhoods in the “City of Brotherly Love” pock marked with 40,000 vacant lots and zombie homes.
Back in 2014, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that in addition to being “the poorest big city in America,” Philly had earned another dubious distinction of having “the highest rate of deep poverty _ people with incomes below half of the poverty line – of any of the nation’s 10 most populous cities.”
Reporter Alfred Lubrano observed that “Philadelphia’s deep-poverty rate is 12.2 percent, or nearly 185,000 people,” almost “twice the U.S. deep-poverty rate of 6.3 percent.”
As the elites of both parities prepare to enjoy the hospitality largesse of corporate America, it might be a good time to put Philadelphia’s misery index in a national context.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $2 a day. Since 1996, and the Clinton era push “to end welfare as we knew it,” the number of American families living in extreme poverty has spiked from 636,000 to 1.65 million by 2011 according to “The Rise of Extreme Poverty in the U.S.” (2015) by poverty researchers Kathryn Edin, and H. Luke Shaefer.
In that mix, say the researchers, are three million children nationally. In Philadelphia that translates to 60,000 kids.
Despite its claims to want to unify voters ahead of November’s election, the Democratic party appears to be pushing for an agenda that critics say ignores basic progressive policies, “staying true” to their Corporate donors above all else.
During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC’s platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.
In a statement, Sanders said he was “disappointed and dismayed” that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.
“Inexplicable” was how Sanders described the move, adding: “It is hard for me to understand why Secretary Clinton’s delegates won’t stand behind Secretary Clinton’s positions in the party’s platform.”
The panel also rejected amendments suggested by 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, another Sanders pick, that would have imposed a carbon tax, declared a national moratorium on fracking as well as new fossil fuel drilling leases on federal lands and waters.
The City of Philadelphia won’t ban rush-hour protests during the Democratic National Convention after all.
And officials are granting a permit for a protest march down South Broad Street on the convention’s opening day, all as part of settling a lawsuit filed last week by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Cheri Honkala, the longtime activist who heads a group called the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, had sought a permit to march from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center beginning at 3 p.m. July 25, the convention’s opening day.
The city at first denied the request, saying protests would be banned during rush hour – a ban the ACLU argued posed an overwhelming limit on First Amendment rights.
“We had a sense that even if we didn’t permit during rush hour, there would be people who demonstrated in Center City anyway, so better to encourage them to get a permit,” Mayor Kenney’s chief spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, said Thursday. “That way, we can still better manage demonstrations that are permitted, and minimize disruptions to surrounding businesses and residents if we know they’re coming.”
Honkala and the ACLU declined to comment ahead of a planned news briefing on the settlement at noon Friday.
Hitt said fighting a lawsuit 25 days before the convention did not sound appealing to the city.
“When we knew all these resources would have to be dedicated to a lawsuit for people who would otherwise be focused on the DNC, that kind of just sealed the deal,” Hitt said.
She said lawyers for the city and the ACLU came to agreement Thursday.
She said Honkala agreed to move her march’s start from 3 p.m. to 2. The permit is for a march from 2 to 6, starting on the south apron of City Hall and continuing to the Wells Fargo Center, where the Democrats will hold their convention through July 28.
City officials agreed to grant the permit and said they would consider other permit requests for protests during rush hour. Hitt said there were no plans to close Broad or surrounding Center City streets.
“As with all streets, there may be some rolling closures with dignitary movements or protests, but we don’t expect any long-term closures,” she said.
The ACLU argued that the city’s announced ban on protests between 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. took up most of the day, and that plans to relegate protesters to FDR Park in South Philadelphia would limit their visibility.
Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director for the state ACLU, said last week, “Let’s be frank – most people are not going to be hanging out around FDR Park to watch the protests.”
The settling of the suit would amount to a second win for civil-liberties lawyers as both parties’ conventions near. In Cleveland, after the Ohio ACLU sued over protest restrictions that city had planned for the July 18 to 21 Republican convention – such as a designated free-speech zone far from the convention site and rush-hour bans – a federal judge ordered the rules revised.
Hitt said Philadelphia had been more accommodating than that – granting protest permits for locations in Center City and using FDR Park, near the Wells Fargo Center, as a designated large protest area.
The city has received at least 23 requests for demonstration permits. Honkala’s was one of at least 10 so far approved.
HAYDEN MITMAN, Philly Voice
Make no mistake about it, there will be protests in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention from July 25 to 28 at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.
But protesters from a variety of groups gathered Tuesday at the One Parkway Building, at 1515 Arch Street, to denounce the city’s ban on protests during rush hour – no gatherings allowed in Center City from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. – and call for a shutdown of the DNC.
“We are angered by the coordinated assault on our right to protest,” said organizer Erica Mines, a Philadelphian activist who sparred with Bill Clinton during a recent visit to the city. “We plan to march no matter what the city says.”
The protesters aimed their ire at the city’s Office of Special Events, which has yet to approve a permit for a pair of marches – the Black DNC Resistance March Against Police Terrorism and State Repression and the Shut Down the DNC March – that organizers plan to hold on Monday, July 25, the first day of the convention.
According to protest organizer, Scott Williams, the organizations submitted requests for permits from the Office of Special Events 12 days ago, and they have not heard back.
“We want to ensure our rights are protected,” Williams said.
The planned Shut Down the DNC March is expected to draw up to 3,000 people, and Williams said that, with or without permits, the protesters will march down Broad Street, from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center.
The city has set aside part of FDR Park, near the Wells Fargo Center, for protests, but Williams said, putting protesters in a designated place defeats the purpose.
“They don’t want people to know that we don’t support the Democratic Party,” said Williams. “We are calling your bluff and we are going to march on you, and it’s going to be a powerful show.”
Dustin Slaughter, Philly Declaration
City officials released on Thursday a map of where within FDR Park protesters will be permitted to demonstrate from July 24th to July 28th during the Democratic National Convention. The park, according to the map included below, will be divided into six zones. A pro-Sanders organizer named Billy Taylor has been granted permits for the first four zones; permits for the remaining two spaces are currently pending.
We decided to go to FDR Park on Sunday to document how visible DNC protesters will be to delegates and other powerbrokers arriving and leaving the Wells Fargo Center during the three-day convention.
DANA DIFILIPPO, NewsWorks
Five weeks after Philadelphia officials denied an anti-poverty group’s request to march during the Democratic National Convention, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has sued the city in federal court, claiming the permit denial violates their free-speech rights and asking a judge to order city officials to allow the march.
In May, city officials rejected the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign’s application for a permit to march down Broad Street on July 25, the first day of the four-day convention. At the time, a mayoral spokeswoman said it conflicted with another scheduled event and marches wouldn’t be allowed on Broad Street during rush hour. The city later relented on the Broad Street objection but held firm to their rush-hour ban.
But the First Amendment applies all the time, even during rush hour, ACLU deputy legal director Mary Catherine Roper said.
“We think it’s ridiculous that there are five hours in every weekday that you can’t use the city streets to express your free-speech rights,” Roper said, referring to the two hours each morning and three hours each afternoon city officials defined as rush hour. “They close the streets all the time (on weekdays) for celebrations and parades and the pope. But not for protests? We think that’s not OK.”
The complaint, filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, asks for an expedited hearing, with the DNC just a month away.
City officials said the Law Department is still reviewing the complaint and they do not have a comment at this time.
In the filing, Roper lists more than a dozen examples of street closures approved for events that closed Broad Street and surrounding Center City streets during weekday rush hours.
“The city has not explained why it will allow Center City streets to be closed for hours or days for these nonpolitical purposes but cannot allow a moving political protest on any Center City street from the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” Roper wrote in the complaint. “It appears the city favors block parties and other celebrations over protest, or that it favors commercial or prestigious speakers over those less powerful. Either rationale is content-based and prohibited by the First Amendment.”
“This is not a written policy anywhere in the city,” Roper added. Further, police routinely look the other way when unpermitted groups protest or march in city streets during weekday rush hours, so long as they commit no crimes, she said.
Of 19 applications for permits, it was one of three denied, according to city records. Also rejected: The Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders’ request for 200 marchers to parade from City Hall down Broad Street to the stadium area between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. July 25; and Global Zero’s request to demonstrate every day of the convention at FDR Park and Marconi Plaza with an inflatable rocket to call for an end to nuclear weapons. Seven other permits were approved; seven remain pending; and two were withdrawn because their locations are National Park Service land, according to city records.
The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign’s March for Our Lives, which organizer Cheri Honkala expected would draw 500 marchers, was to start at City Hall at 3 p.m. and move down Broad Street to FDR Park, near the Wells Fargo Center where the DNC will occur.
Honkala already has said her group will march with or without a permit. And while she was happy the ACLU is championing her group’s rights, she worried about damage already done.
“It doesn’t even matter if they (city officials) relent, because they’ve created fear,” Honkala said. “If I’m a mother from Wisconsin who planned to come march, now I’m going to think twice before I get on that bus to come march because I’m worried about trouble.”
Besides the march, Honkala’s group also plans to organize a tent city in North Philadelphia where poor people can camp during the DNC, hold “reality tours” for reporters and others to see poverty first-hand, and stage a “fart-in,” in which participants will surround the DNC after a bean supper and let loose “as a final expression of what we think of this whole process.”
Cheri Honkala, the leader of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, announced that her group was organizing the world’s largest “fart-in” to be held on July 28 at the Wells Fargo Center during Hillary Clinton’s anticipated acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination.
“We will be holding a massive bean supper for Bernie Sanders delegates on American Street in my Kensington neighborhood on the afternoon of July 28,” she said. “We are setting up a Clintonville there, modeled on the Hoovervilles of the 1930s where the poor and unemployed built shanty towns. The Sanders delegates, their bellies full of beans, will be able to return to the Wells Fargo Center and greet the rhetorical flatulence of Hillary Clinton with the real thing.”
Honkala said she would issue an invitation to Sanders to join the bean supper, which she is calling Beans for Hillary. She has asked donors to send cans of beans to 1301-W Porter Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19148.
“Any remaining beans will be served to the homeless, although we will, of course, be urging Sanders delegates to eat as much as possible,” Honkala said.
Chris Hedges, an author and activist who is an ordained Presbyterian minister, will open the Beans for Hillary meal with a nondenominational prayer.
“I am happy to bless a meal that will be put to such effective political use,” Hedges said.
“The Democratic primary process, as Sanders supporters now realize, was rigged from the start,” said Hedges, a Pulitzer-prize winning former New York Times foreign correspondent. “The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton machine used a variety of mechanisms to game the elections including the appointing of superdelgates, the banning of independent voters from numerous primaries, purging voters from voting lists and using millions in dark money and from Super PACs to fund the Clinton campaign. Caucuses, as we saw in Nevada, were shamelessly manipulated on behalf of Clinton. Sanders never had a chance.”
“We need to build a third party and populist movements, freed from Democratic Party control, to defy corporate power,” Hedges said. “This will take more than one election cycle to accomplish. If Sanders will not join us, we will have to do it without him.”
Honkala, who was the Green Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, said the poor and working men and women could not endure more assaults from the forces of neoliberalism and the two corporate political parties.
“The Clintons have done enough damage,” she said. “They decimated the working class with the North American Free Trade Agreement. They exploded the prison population under the 1994 Omnibus Crime bill and draconian drug laws that mandated life sentences. They destroyed the welfare system, and under the old system 70 percent of the recipients were children. They turned the airwaves over to a half dozen corporations by deregulating the FCC. They ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks that precipitated the global meltdown. There is not a war they don’t support. And their record on civil liberties is appalling. We cannot afford more of the same. We are either going to build third party movements or an American Spring.”
Honkala is planning a march on the opening day of the convention, although the city has denied her a permit. It will begin on the south side of Philadelphia’s City Hall at 3 p.m. on July 25. She said the Beans for Hillary event would cap three days of protests during the convention to highlight the plight of the poor and the working poor.
“We get political mutations like Trump because the system does not work on our behalf,” she said. “Putting the Clintons back in power may remove Trump from the scene, but it guarantees that a political figure even more frightening will rise to take his place. Until we wrest back control from corporate power things will only get worse.”
By Dustin Slaughter, Billy Penn
Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has tightened the rules for protesting during the Democratic National Convention in July. The Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union would like to know why.
The group faxed a four-page letter to the Kenney administration Wednesday morning, stating that it is “deeply troubled” by indications that officials “seem to be setting the City up for conflict with protesters” during July’s Democratic National Convention. The city expects upwards of 30,000 demonstrators during the week of the event.
The letter, based on face-to-face meetings between the ACLU and city officials, as well as emails obtained last night by Billy Penn, revealed that “new positions articulated by the Law Department raise serious First Amendment issues.”
In a statement released Wednesday evening, the administration said in part that they “were extremely disappointed that the ACLU has created unnecessary distrust of the City’s plans regarding demonstrators in the interest of garnering national media attention. The ACLU claims to have sent this letter to reduce public confusion, but in reality, they released this letter to the media at the same moment they sent it to the City, giving the City no opportunity to respond.”
The city has not yet responded to the ACLU, according to the organization’s Deputy Legal Director Mary-Catherine Roper.
So what’s changed? New restrictions on marches down Broad Street and throughout Center City; access — but not overnight access — to a recently-designated “protest zone” at FDR Park across the street from the Wells Fargo Center; and a lack of clarity about whether outside law enforcement agencies, including the State Police, will be under the command – and subject to the policies and directives – of the Philadelphia Police Department.
No Permits for Center City? No Marching
First: demonstrators may be in for trouble with police should they march down Broad Street without a permit, as well as march anywhere in Center City during rush hour.
One significant change to the city’s previous stance involves their refusal to issue any permits for marches down Broad Street (a common thoroughfare for seemingly countless demonstrations that have occurred in the past). Importantly, Broad Street will become a one-way street during the convention, to ease traffic from Center City to the Wells Fargo Center While Ed Rendell told reporters that Broad Street would be one way during parts of the Democratic National Convention, Hitt now says that’s no longer the case.
The letter goes on to challenge another policy change that would restrict rush hour marches throughout Center City too, characterizing the reversal as “particularly concerning when combined with the City’s unwillingness to state publicly that it will not seek to punish protesters merely for protesting without a permit.”
Kenney spokesperson Lauren Hitt confirmed that protests in Center City during rush hour would not be permitted, in order to avoid impeding emergency vehicles. This is a stark departure from pre-convention policy. She also told Billy Penn yesterday evening there would be no ban on permitted marches down Broad Street “outside of Center City.”
In emails provided by the ACLU however, city attorney Valerie Robinson makes very clear that no permits for Broad Street marches would be issued by the city at all – rush hour or no.
“With respect to marching down Broad Street, the City does not intend to issue any permits for marches,” wrote Robinson on June 9th. In the same email, the city defines rush hour as 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
But late Wednedsay, the administration suddenly changed course on a Broad Street ban.
“I want to be clear about the City’s stance on Broad Street demonstrations,” wrote Hitt in an email to Billy Penn. “There is no ban. The email you refer to from Valerie Robinson about the city’s policy on Broad Street demonstrations is outdated.”
That would be a significant policy reversal in less than one week.
Molly Tack-Hooper, a staff attorney with the Pennsylvania ACLU, said last night that the lack of clear policies is precisely why they wrote to Kenney.
“This is the third articulation of the Broad St. rules that we’ve heard in one week from the City. One week ago, the Law Department said there will be no permits issued for marches down Broad St. Yesterday, Kenney’s spokesperson said that there is only a prohibition on marches down Broad St. in Center City and that permits may be issued for Broad St. outside of Center City.
Hitt also told the Inquirer yesterday that Broad Street permits were being “evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but that there are no blanket ban on demonstrations on Broad Street.”
And during all of this confusion, should an “illegal asssembly” (read: unpermitted march) get rounded up and hauled away, they wouldn’t go to any of the city jails currently operating.
And if an “illegal assembly” was rounded up and hauled away, they wouldn’t go to any of the city jails currently operating.
That’s because storied Holmesburg Prison will be reopened in the event of mass arrests, according to Hitt, who stressed that just because the facility is being prepared specifically for the Convention doesn’t mean they “plan to engage in mass arrests.”
“We are only preparing the facility so that if a worst-case-scenario does occur, arrested individuals aren’t placed in general population.”
No Sleeping in FDR Park
And then there’s the matter of demonstrators camping overnight in FDR Park. According to the ACLU, previous meetings between Philadelphia police and the organization produced an understanding that police would “not expend resources to clear FDR Park at night,” meaning protesters would not be kicked out of the park.
Hitt confirmed that the city would in fact be restricting access to the park “due to health and safety concerns for prospective campers,” but would be extending its hours until 10 p.m., and that officials would “respectfully ask those who attempt to camp in FDR to relocate.”
The city said it planned to provide “numerous resources to ensure [protesters’] health and safety, including misting tents, water and restrooms.”
According to the park’s Facebook page however, the space closes at 9 p.m.
Is There a Lawsuit Brewing?
There are also concerns that the city may be bracing themselves for a lawsuit, according to an individual involved with the negotiations between the city and ACLU, who requested anonymity. Those concerns stem from the fact, evidenced in the letter, that up until recently, ACLU attorneys had been meeting and communicating directly with Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis’ Office, Philly Police, and Secret Service. That relationship has changed since last year though.
“The City Law Department recently asked that we stop communicating directly with city agencies and instead direct all inquiries through it,” the letter states. Yesterday night, the ACLU also provided an email confirming that the Law Department requested that the ACLU communicate with city attorneys instead of reaching out to various agencies.
“Also, just a reminder, please reach out to us and not our clients with any questions you may have or information you may require,” stated Robinson in an email dated June 3rd.
Will Philly Police run the show?
Wednesday’s letter to Kenney also sought clarification on what the police’s command structure would look like.
“It is vital that the public understands to what extent the law enforcement officers providing DNC-related security in Philadelphia will be under the City’s control and bound by the City’s policies, such as the PPD policy against infiltration of protest groups, or PPD policies restricting officers’ interference with civilians’ attempts to record or photograph the police.”
That policy refers to a landmark 1993 directive that prohibits Philly police infiltration of political activity without written permission from the Managing Director and a Deputy Police Commissioner. Would this policy apply to outside agencies under the command of the police department? Police recently confirmed in a Right-to-Know response that this policy is still in effect.
“State and federal law enforcement agencies are not legally bound by the PPD’s policies, however, given that we are working in coordination with these groups we don’t expect them to stray outside the scope,” Hitt said.
The letter concludes in part by urging officials to ensure “that Philadelphia lives up to its reputation as the birthplace of liberty in America.”
These new revelations present a very different picture of how, until now, local officials had indicated they would deal with street protests during the convention. A recent Inquirer editorial trumpeted a new council ordinance introduced by the administration that seemed to take a soft-handed approach to demonstrations (although that bill is expected to be amended over some First Amendment concerns).
By Chris Hedges, truthdig
On July 25, opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Cheri Honkala, leader of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, who was denied a permit to march by city authorities, will rally with thousands of protesters outside City Hall. Defying the police, they will march up Broad Street to the convention.
We will recapture our democracy in the streets of cities such as Philadelphia, not in convention halls such as the aptly named Wells Fargo Center, where the Democratic Party elites intend to celebrate the results of the rigged primary elections and the continuity of corporate power.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, other activists and I will march with Honkala. It is not as if we have a choice. No one invited us into the center or to the lavish corporate-sponsored receptions. No one anointed us to be Clinton superdelegates—a privilege that went to corporate lobbyists, rich people and party hacks. No one in the Democratic establishment gives a damn what we think.
The convention is not our party. It is their party. It costs a lot of money to attend. Donate $100,000 and you become an “empire” donor, with perks such as “VIP credentials for all convention proceedings,” along with tickets to lavish corporate and Party receptions, photo ops with politicians at the convention podium, four rooms at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel and a suite at a Yankees game, where a “special guest” will be present. Short of $100,000? You can become a “gold” donor for $50,000, a “silver” donor for $25,000 or a “bronze” donor for $10,000.
We have the best democracy money can buy. The Wells Fargo Center and the fancy hotels in Philadelphia will be swarming with corporate representatives and lobbyists from Comcast, Xerox, Google and dozens of other companies that manage our political theater.
Honkala, who was once homeless—she lived for a while out of cars, in abandoned houses and under bridges—and who was the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, has long defied the elites on behalf of the marginalized and the poor. She led a protest at the 2000 Republican National Convention, (after being denied a permit for that as well), which saw 30,000 people shut down Philadelphia’s center over issues such as racial discrimination, police violence and poverty. She has fought for the homeless, the unemployed and the underemployed for three decades, through acts of civil disobedience —marches, the construction of tent cities and homeless encampments, and sit-ins—that often ended in arrests. She has been arrested more than 200 times.
She will be on the south side of Philadelphia’s City Hall at 3 p.m. on July 25, with or without a permit. And thousands for whom the Democratic Party is another face of the corporate enemy will be there with her. (Contacts for the march are (215) 869-4753 or email@example.com.)
“Philadelphia has a poverty rate of 26 percent,” she said when I reached her by phone. “It has the highest number of people who die from drug overdoses in the country. The city has not housed anyone within the homeless population within 10 months. It has lost its state certification for the Department of Human Services child protection agency because of gross negligence and substandard conditions for children. Foster kids are stuck in an abusive system. Hundreds are not being placed. And at the same time, the city will spend $43 million on security for the convention. It will spend upwards of $60 million to house millionaires and billionaires while it ignores the vulnerable and attempts, by denying us a permit to march, to render them invisible.”
She said that the difference between the march she led in 2000 and the one planned for July is that “things are four times worse.” She spoke about her north Philadelphia neighborhood, Kensington, the poorest district in the state. It has one of the highest homicide rates in the nation. It has a large homeless population. It has a poverty rate of 46.9 percent. The food bank is protected by barbed wire.
“Back then, someone could work three or even four jobs and barely survive,” she said. “I live in a neighborhood now of the permanently unemployed. There is an underground economy. We have to collectively keep each other alive. There are hundreds of young men who are not just attempting to live on a dollar a day, but go a couple of weeks with nothing. We try to figure out how to find food and housing. We try to figure out how to keep alive.”
The loss of faith in the political system and neoliberal ideology is widespread. The corporate elites are pouring $5 billion into the carnival of presidential electoral politics in a desperate bid to keep us mesmerized and controlled. Democracy is endlessly invoked on the airwaves to legitimize the corporate and political forces that have destroyed it. Congress has an approval rating of 11 percent. Half of qualified voters are not registered to vote, and half of registered voters do not go to the polls. A little more than half of 25 percent—no more than 15 percent—of the electorate determines who becomes president. And this is the way the elites want it.
In our system of inverted totalitarianism, the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin pointed out, the object is to demobilize the citizenry, to render it apathetic, to convince the citizen that all political activity that does not take place within the narrow boundaries defined by the corporate state is futile. This is a message hammered into public consciousness by the corporate media, which serve as highly paid courtiers to the corporate elites. It is championed by the two parties that offer up fear of the other as their primary political platform.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hold the highest candidate disapproval ratings in American history—in that order. These two candidates, the system insists, are the only “rational” options. Step outside the system and you are disappeared or ridiculed. Acceptable political opinions, as Wolin wrote, are “measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.” We vote, in the end, for skillfully manufactured personalities. Neither Trump nor Clinton in office will hinder corporate hegemony. Nothing will change until we revolt, until we defy the corporate system, until we wake from our civic stupor. The goal of the elites is to keep us pacified.
“The crucial element that sets off inverted totalitarianism from Nazism is that while the latter imposed a regime of mobilization upon its citizenry, inverted totalitarianism works to depoliticize its citizens, thus paying a left-handed compliment to the prior experience of democratization,” Wolin wrote in “Politics and Vision.” “Where the Nazis strove to give the masses a sense of collective power and confidence, Kraft durch Freude (or ‘strength through joy’), the inverted regime promotes a sense of weakness, collective futility that culminates in the erosion of the democratic faith, in political apathy and the privatization of the self. Where the Nazis wanted a continuously mobilized society that would support its masters without complaint and enthusiastically vote ‘yes’ at the managed plebiscites, the elite of inverted totalitarianism wants a politically demobilized society that hardly votes at all.”
The growing consternation of the state is apparent. Meetings held by groups that are considering protesting during the convention are routinely monitored by what Honkala called “floorwalkers,” whom she suspects work for the police, Homeland Security or the FBI.
“These meetings are saturated with floorwalkers,” she said. “They say they are ‘Burners’ [those who say if Bernie Sanders is not elected there should be a political revolution] or from Occupy, and they are on our side. We are approached at every meeting. We are questioned by these floorwalkers about whether we will engage in violence during the convention. They want to know if we plan to be arrested. Are we going to do sit-ins? They tell us we have been infiltrated and point out people in the room, who, they say, are undercover cops. They are men and women. That is what we see face to face. They are also all over social media. The Clinton elements attack me for not being a true woman. They say I am a saboteur who will be responsible for electing Trump. They call us spoilers. They tell us not to march.
“We don’t have any choices anymore,” she went on. “I have been doing this work for almost 30 years. In the documentary made about our march during the Republican National Convention in 2000, there are eight people in the film that are now dead. The poor live in a war zone. I do not know if my kid will get to school or come back alive, and this is even if he has a school to go to, because they are talking about closing down more schools. We either do everything we possibly can to build an independent political party, or we will have to organize the next American Spring. The poor are barely surviving. The planet as we know it may soon not be in existence. Across the street from where I live, five people were shot, all on the same day. Three of them were teenagers who died. Our kids are exploitable or expendable.”
Her neighborhood, she said, is a biohazard. It is filled with refineries and waste-storage facilities. Miscarriages, asthma, diabetes and cancer are epidemic. Low-income people can’t afford Obamacare. They pay the penalty on their taxes. And health issues, including life-threatening illnesses, usually go untreated.
Honkala is preparing for a confrontation.
“What happens before a lot of these events is they come and lock me up,” she said. “This is what happened before the [1999 World Trade Organization protests]. This is what happened when they opened the Constitution Center and we protested. I am trying to figure out how to keep cameras around me for safety reasons before the march. We need people to witness this. The last thing poor folks have is their voice. We can’t let that be taken too.”
The Democratic National Convention will take place in Philadelphia, from July 25th through July 28th. City authorities have issued permits for four marches during the convention, but they have thus far refused to grant a permit to the March for Our Lives organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. I spoke to campaign organizer, Philadelphia native, and former Green Party vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala.
Ann Garrison: Cheri Honkala, four permits have been issued for marches at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July. Could you give us an idea of what you expect there?
Cheri Honkala: Yeah, the only permits that have been granted and probably will be granted are just marches and events that are associated in one way or another with the Democratic Party. There’s an environmental march and then there are all Bernie events. The one march that has not been granted a permit happens to be my march. It’s a march for poor and homeless families, single payer, and stopping the school to prison pipeline, and the whole list. We’ve always had our marches on opening days of both the Democratic and the Republican conventions, and it’s called the March for Our Lives.
I’m sure that the only reason that I’m not being granted a permit is because I am not a Democrat, and I am really pushing forward this idea of independent politics in this country. And, marchers, all of us, are going to go forward with the march on opening day, which is July 25th, at 3 pm, in front of city hall, and it will probably be the largest march. I’ve heard from the Bernie supporters that many are planning to join us in our march.
AG: Did the authorities try to come up with any better reason for not permitting your march?
CH: They basically said that the Bernie folks had permits for the entire town and all of FDR Park, and I have to be careful about what I say because I want to stay alive and there are very powerful forces out there, but one would think that there would be civil liberties attorneys stepping up and challenging this thing legally and there aren’t.
AG: Your march would be a non-partisan march, right?
CH: Yes, the march has Bernie folks, Green folks, anarchists, socialists, whoever. And the fact that the city is not allowing this march that is just focusing on all of the social ills of our country right now – to not allow that march to happen – is devastating beyond words. I would expect that of the Republicans. I didn’t expect that from the Democrats.
AG: What was the name of your march again?
CH: It’s called the March for Our Lives. It’s on opening day of the Democratic convention. Members of Vets for Peace are part of our security team, our peace team. Our marches always begin with people from the disability community that will be in wheelchairs at the front, as well as our elders and our children, and we will step off at three o’clock. We’re hoping and praying that we will not see a repeat of the Democratic National Convention in ‘68 in Chicago, but we know that this march is incredibly important. A long list of the most basic social needs are being neglected in Philadelphia while the city spends $43 million dollars to build up the police state and militarize the police, and we know that priorities are skewed in the same way all over the country.
Saint Petersburg Independents
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
… what it actually says.
From July 25 to 28, the people will be peaceably assembling in Philadelphia. Nobody is forgetting 1968, but we all know that this is not 1968. Sanders people are negotiating details for four demonstrations, one at FDR Park, about a half mile from the Wells Fargo Convention Center, and others scheduled at a much smaller plaza four miles away. Sanders organizers are working with city officials to keep everything “peaceful and constructive,” and are expecting upwards of 30,000 people. Plans are already in motion to line up busloads and accommodations for Philly, and have begun raising money specifically for the demonstrations.
The negotiations come in the shadow of the May 4 Nevada State Democratic Convention, whose organizers deliberately created their own “Reichstag Fire” incident. The media is dutifully broadcasting the rage of the Hillary camp and its pundit allies at Sanders even remaining in the race. They are knowingly spreading the blatant lie that the Sanders people — with their “penchant for violence” — were throwing chairs at last week’s Nevada State Convention. On May 17, Sanders outlined the deliberately provocative behavior of the Nevada Democratic leadership, which was met with outrage that Sanders did not heed their call and start attacking his own people.
“No chairs were thrown.”
As Doug Johnson Hatlem revealed in the May 18 Counterpunch:
“No chairs were thrown at the convention Saturday. No death threats were made against the chair of the convention Roberta Lange. And Bernie Sanders delegates were not simply mad because their louder shouting was ignored.”
Controlling the stage, Chair Roberta Lange used the “time-honored” method of calling for a voice vote, ruling that the “ayes” have it, and surrounding herself with armed guards behind metal barricades. Then, as a final slap in Sanders’ face, Lange tried to use the liberal Senator from Nevada Barbara Boxer … oh, my mistake, the Senator from CALIFORNIA Barbara Boxer to try to threaten the crowd into silence.
“If you Boo me, you’re booing Bernie Sanders … Boo yourselves out of this election!”
No, they were booing Boxer. Liberals howled that the Sanders people were causing all this trouble over a measly two delegates, not even embarrassed by the obvious fact that the Clinton camp had gone all-jackboot over the same measly two delegates.
Allow me to be blunt. This was a calculated political assassination. Or at least a political assassination attempt, in the fine tradition of the Reichstag Fire of 1933, when the Nazis themselves burned down the German parliament, then used it as a pretext for passing an emergency decree to suspend civil liberties and institute mass arrests of their left opposition.
One might ask why the Democratic Party, feigning dismay that Sanders people might not vote unanimously for Hillary, would so stomp on the very people they claim to need. Recall 1972. George McGovern won the Democratic Party nomination by using new rules to outmaneuver and out campaign the party bosses of the day. Outraged at such impertinence, key elements of the party sand-bagged McGovern, preferring to re-elect Nixon than allow such an interloper to become president. Bottom line: winning a given election is NOT the Democratic Party’s bottom line. Rather, paramount is keeping control. It’s that simple.
Nevada — the DNC’s dress rehearsal for Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, keeping order is in the hands of Philadelphia’s “Finest.” The home of legendary Police Chief Frank Rizzo, who was elected mayor in 1975 after saying, “I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot,” they are a police force ranked by Copblock as Number 8 among 9 Police Departments With Corrupt Pasts.
The City of Brotherly Love has an ugly history of trying to suppress protest. In 2000, thousands of poor and homeless families marched down Broad Street to protest the first day of the Republican National Convention. Cheri Honkala of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, and National Coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, had fought tooth and nail for the right of her people to peaceably march against the Republican hate-fest. The city refused them a march permit and sent in police infiltrators, but Honkala’s people marched down Broad anyway and put the demands of the poor front and center. The following video recounts that march and the events leading up to it:
Battle for Broad.
So while Sanders organizers are now working with city officials to keep everything “peaceful and constructive,” the city’s number one priority is still to keep order, and 30,000 people is a whole lot of people.
Enter the poor, stage left.
This year, Honkala, more recently Jill Stein’s 2012 Green Party running mate, is working to organize a march of the poor and homeless down Broad Street, the March for Our Lives, to “draw attention to the economic issues that are decimating our city and country.” Again, the city and police are attempting to deny her a permit, claiming it would disrupt traffic or conflict with other events.
The May 17 Metro writes that Honkala:
“believes the city doesn’t want her group to expose the city’s struggles with poverty and homelessness as national attention is on Philadelphia for the convention this July. “This is basically cosmetics,” Honkala said. “This is ‘let’s sweep up and hide poor homeless people prior to the Democratic National Convention, let’s pretend like we’re doing a good job providing the basic necessities of life for people who don’t have these things.’”
As for the city’s excuses:
“That’s a game,” she said, adding that they had contacted the organizers of the other event on the same day: “We know this space is available at that time.”
Traditionally, demonstrations have been allowed to cut off traffic with or without permits. Broad Street is important because it will guarantee exposure to both the media and the public. It’s a straight run — from City Hall down Broad Street to the Wells Fargo Convention Center. Says Honkala:
“The city is not wanting to talk about the fact that right now, we can walk around City Hall and there’s homeless people sleeping outside. They’re going to spend $43 million on security for the DNC. Could they spend that on housing? … “We’re not going to go hide under a bench, we’re not going to disappear, we’re going to be here, and if they’re ashamed of poverty, hunger and homelessness, they can handle those issues. Permit or no permit, we’re marching.”
The power behind the blue curtain.
But let us not be distracted by the bad reputation of the Enforcers, lest we forget those they will be doing the enforcing for: the Democratic National Committee, headed by Florida Congresswoman and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Wasserman Schultz has been trying to quash the insurgent Bernie Sanders presidential campaign from the beginning. First she backed Hillary in restricting the number of presidential debates to an absolute minimum, preferring to schedule them on weekends, which have the smallest viewerships. In mid-February, Wasserman Schultz and the DNC quietly (secretly) reversed Obama’s 2008 ban on the DNC taking money from corporate lobbyists, opening the floodgates to Hillary receiving almost unlimited corporate cash. She is not going unchallenged.
Tim Canova — a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s law school in Fort Lauderdale and teacher of international trade law — is now going after Wasserman Schultz’s 23rd District congressional seat (consisting of portions of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties) in Florida’s August 30 primary. Canova had bitterly opposed Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Wasserman Schultz was one of 28 House Democrats to support giving Obama fast-track trade authority. That was too much for Canova, who says:
“No member of the Washington establishment has done more to help big corporations gain influence and power within the Democratic National Committee than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Not only has she repealed President Barack Obama’s ban on federal lobbyists donating to the DNC, but we’ve learned in the past week that she has recruited Republicans and anti-Obamacare lobbyists to be the official hosts and funders of the Democratic National Convention in July.”
As former Obama environmental adviser Van Jones put it on CNN:
“Debbie, who should be the umpire, who should be the marriage counselor, is coming in harder for Hillary Clinton than she is for herself. That is malpractice.”
Fighting for the Political Revolution, Canova has endorsed Sanders and has been endorsed by him as well. Like Sanders, Canova refuses corporate donations, having already raised over $1 million in small contributions. He of course supports the $15/hour minimum wage, and says:
“We can create millions of jobs for young men and women by investing in jobs programs. We must demand pay equity for women. We can make tuition free at public colleges and universities, as they were for my dad’s generation after World War II with the G.I. Bill of Rights program. And like Senator Sanders, I support paying for this with a small turnover tax — the so-called “Robin Hood tax” — on financial transactions.”
Meet me in Philadelphia!
Yes, 30,000 people is a lot of people. There is no reason to expect a love-fest, despite the fact that, per the Metro, Philadelphia is planning a “PoliticalFest,” designed to be “a six-day series of events and exhibits around the city with fun and educational programming for adults and children alike exploring the history of democracy in the United States.” PolliticalFest is Convention Chair Ed Rendell’s “‘brainchild,’ originally cooked up back in 2000 when as mayor he hosted the Republican National Convention.”
I guess nobody thought to tell Rendell that the 2016 Democrats are not exactly the same as the year 2000 Republicans.
A New Alliance.
Compare the leading demands of March for Our Lives with the Sanders Income Inequality planks:
Substantively the same.
Sanders the Democrat and Honkala the Green. Their forces 30,000 strong. Putting the cause of the poor and homeless front and center. That can make a powerful statement impacting far beyond the days of the Convention. They can strengthen each other.
The Sanders people have an opportunity to reach the Black and Latino communities directly, bypassing the Black/Latino Democratic Party power structure that has so long been Hillary’s trump card. The March for Our Lives forces benefit from greater media attention and a degree of protection in the face of the Philly’s Finest. Both face a common enemy — the DNC neocon/neoliberal Establishment power structure that has pulled out all the stops to shut them both out. Though of separate organizations, both share a common movement.
Oh, did I mention? 30,000 people, that’s a whole lot of people.
— posted by Jeff Roby
May 21, 2016
A group of anti-poverty activists is vowing to march through downtown Philadelphia when the Democratic National Convention is in town, even though the city has denied its application for a permit to do so.
Longtime activist Cheri Honkala applied for the permit on behalf of her organization, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
At a press conference outside City Hall Tuesday, Honkala said more than 500 people from around the country will march from Broad Street to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia on the opening day of the convention — permit or no permit.
“Poor and homeless people, the last thing that we have is our voice, and they’re not going to take that away from us,” she said.
City spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said Honkala’s request was rejected because the march would conflict with another event in the area. It would also require police to shut down South Broad Street during evening rush hour.
“Demonstrations are an important part of every convention, and we try to be as accommodating as possible to demonstrators,” said Hitt.
Jody Dodd of the Up Against the Law legal collective, which is working with protest groups to prepare for the DNC, called the city’s justification “fairly ludicrous.”
“Demonstrations have been cutting off traffic permitted or not for years now,” Dodd said.
In a letter rejecting Honkala’s request, deputy managing director Jazelle Jones wrote that the city could not recommend alternatives, but would “welcome the submission of a revised application.”
Honkala said she is not planning to reapply and will hold the event, called the “March for Our Lives,” without a permit just as she did when Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000.
So far, Philadelphia officials have received nine applications for demonstration permits. Only one has been granted to the anti-fracking group Food and Water Watch for a climate change march on Sunday, July 24, the day before the convention starts. Other applications are under review by the managing director’s office and the Philadelphia Police Department.
We will be building a #Clintonville2016 tent city during the week of the Democratic National Convention to remind everyone that both major political parties are controlled by the ultra-rich and fail to enact the types of policies and plans that are needed to ensure that all people have access to clean water, healthy food, shelter, healthcare, and other basic necessities.
Together, we can build a true political revolution that empowers the poor, upholds and respects the value of all lives, and demands that our communities receive the resources we need to not only survive, but also grow healthier and stronger.
“Hillary forces target Bush donors”
“NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton’s supporters in recent days have been making a furious round of calls to top Bush family donors to try to convince them that she represents their values better than Donald Trump, multiple sources in both parties told POLITICO….”
We’re excited to announce the next March for Our Lives at this year’s Democratic National Convention in July, but we need help organizing this! Please donate and share.