Next week the Democratic National Convention will be in full swing in Philadelphia. The lights, cameras and the nation's attention will be on the Democrats gathering in the birthplace of America's democracy.
With all eyes on Philly, I want to see First Amendment rights exercised in their totality, especially protest.
First off, don’t get it wrong – I don’t want Donald Trump to be our next president. However, what I will not tolerate is for the poorest major city in America to pretend it’s a big shot in front of rest of the world. Protesters will and should call out those responsible – the city and the Democrats running it.
It makes sense that Philly would be the ideal choice for the DNC. We love our Democrats. But many of the party's beliefs and messages – equal opportunity for all, diversity, and progressive reform – don't measure up in Philadelphia.
We have oppressive policies that keep ward leaders dictating the leadership of their districts and persistent nepotism in grooming those who want to get elected. Furthermore, we see lobbyists, labor unions, and political insiders have their hand out for favors from our elected officials – while most Philadelphians are at the bottom of the list.
We still have stop and frisk, poor voter turnout, a less diverse mayor’s Cabinet, mismanaged education system, high poverty and unemployment rates for people of color, a gun violence crisis, and recent corruption that has impacted our elected officials’ performance in the region.
So when I heard former mayor and governor Ed Rendell, now chairman of the DNC, tell the media that he doesn’t expect protests to disrupt the city – I laughed. How could you not? Are we living in two different cities? Philadelphia taxpayers better be out there letting the world know that there is no yellow brick road to City Hall!
Critics argue that protesting isn’t effective, that it’s a lazy way of addressing serious issues in the city. Many of those saying that are in positions of influence and power and could be doing more themselves – and don’t. For some who don’t have access and clout in this city, protesting is all they can do and is still a powerful way to voice concerns.
Elected officials who act aloof to the issues are reminded every time they see a sign or a demonstration that this is what the people want. Before many could get hired, appointed, or elected, they first marched. If there was any time that protesters were needed to lead the charge on the hypocrisy of this city’s democracy, this would be it.
Use your voice in a civil and safe way and get people talking. Hopefully, those elites in their wingtip shoes, with their Tory Burch handbags will hear you and spread the word. That’s how you start a movement. That’s how you enact change.