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Posts tagged ‘Temple University’

Bernie Sanders for President: Rally in Philadelphia

I jumped back into politics placing a reservation to attend the Bernie Sanders Rally in Philadelphia on April 6. I’m very much a pragmatic thinker. As much as I would like to overhaul the American economic system, replacing corporations with worker-owned collectives, I can support a candidate who strongly endorses unions and a living wage.  Bernie’s positions on income inequality, living wage, medicare for all, tuition-free college are issues I strongly support. Bernie cannot, however, change the broken economic system alone.  It is up to the citizenry to create that sweeping change. We must be invested in our democracy by participating in ways that guarantee that every citizen has a voice.

The Rally

I returned to my graduate school Alma Mater, Temple University, for the rally. When I arrived at the Liacorous Center a little after 5, the line, ten deep, snaked along the sidewalk, weaving through the side streets for ten blocks. I thought I’d never get in, seeing that many people; and the doors had already been open so more folks were already inside. By 6 o’clock I entered through the security check, the Secret Service, inspecting coats and bags. My necklace alerted the wand, but the guard finally let me pass through. We waited until 8:30 for Bernie to speak because it took so long for people to get through security and get seated.  I didn’t think the arena would fill, but it did, all but some seats on the balcony. I estimated 5,000 but turns out more like 10,000 were present.

The crowd, mostly students and young people under 35, were friendly and well-mannered. No one was pushing or shoving in line, and most were engaged in happy conversation. Someone was carrying a sign, Free Hugs, and Philly Jesus showed up, giving his blessings. I sat down on an aisle seat for good visibility. The young man sitting next to me introduced himself, and we had a conversation about Pennsylvania politics. I met everyone around me, and turns out we were all alums of Shippensburg! I heard stories of underemployment and low wages, even for college graduates.

When Bernie walked to the podium deafening cheers erupted. As Bernie spoke the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers or boos, depending on the subject, i.e., living wage or mention of Trump.

Pennsylvania Primary, April 26

The Pennsylvania primary will take place on April 26. Political history in the United State will be made if we elect a progressive candidate for President such as Bernie Sanders.



Occupy Philadelphia: Suburbanite Ventures into the City

I’ve checked the news reports, watched the videos and read the Facebook posts, so it was time to head down to City Hall to see what is going on and lend support. Armed with two cameras and a protest sign I boarded the train, transporting me out of the suburban bubble to downtown Philadelphia.  My goal: to give balanced coverage for those watching on the sidelines who might be debating the merits of this protest. Now some might say how can you give balanced coverage if you are carrying a sign and participating in the demonstration? My question is: how can you give balanced coverage if you are not carrying a sign? Objectivity is a strange animal. When one remains neutral, that is a position.

Some news reports stated that this movement lacks a central theme, but their website states their mission clearly enough:  the one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.

So back to my protest sign.  The sign actually belongs to my son, given to him by my sister about seven years ago. A woman painted  this poster after becoming severely disabled from an accident and then subsequently denied benefits from her insurance company.  Her fury resulted in this creation:

Into Philly

While riding on the train, someone had scrawled a prophetic message on the inside of one of the overpasses:


I arrived at City Hall and found a rag-tag but well-organized occupation zone. News vans from ABC and CBS were parked along the street. Even with few economic resources to draw on, the protestors created a mini-town with an information booth, medical tent, security station, speaking platform, tent city and a democracy resource center, to name a few. I didn’t have much time to visit each area as I joined a smaller group for a march to Temple University. Given that I’m an alum, I thought it only fitting that I should join that protest.

Before we headed down to Temple, the leaders led the group in recitation.  One person would shout a few words at a time and then the group would repeat the words. Surprisingly, this communication method was an effective way for everyone to hear the message. The leaders informed the group of their legal rights and gave them a number to call, which was a smart approach to protesting.

We “occupied” SEPTA, riding on the ell while chanting and singing. We  joined with the Temple students who were holding a protest on mountaintop removal. Together we marched orderly and quietly into the Board of Trustee’s Meeting. Our instructions were just to be present. The Trustees had agreed to meet with Temple students after their meeting to discuss the demands, but at the end a student stood up and read their demands. At this point the Occupy folks stood in support.

Civic Affairs and Police Presence

During the protest actions at Temple, a fairly large contingent of officers from Civic Affairs were present. These officers, dressed in shirts and ties, wore pink armbands. They didn’t seem to be armed. Civic Affairs is part of the police force that serves as an intermediary between protest groups and the police. Years ago ACT-UP sued the police for $8 million for brutality during a protest. The city then established the Civic Affairs Department to mediate these encounters.

Rally at Temple University

What Worked

A couple strategies made the protest a success:

  • working with the Temple students ahead of time to coördinate a joint protest
  • observing the letter of the law
  • commingling with crowds in such a way that it would be extremely difficult for authorities to differential between protestors and bystanders
  • energizing, yet reasoned and calm presence

Chants sometimes included, “We Are The 99% and so are you!”  The citizenry of this country is at the mercy of the corporate behemoths. I congratulate the Occupy protestors for confronting the power and greed of Wall Street.

Occupy Philadelphia.

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