Five years ago, Deandra Jefferson worked inside the city Law Department, located at 1515 Arch St. as an intern through WorkReady Philadelphia. But she became disillusioned in the civil rights division after seeing a steady stream of lawsuits alleging police brutality against people of color.
“It’s not anything that’s outside of the systemic problems that exist in this country, but it was seeing it up front in the city I love,” she said. “I was excited to work for the city as a 17-year-old, but the city doesn’t work for me. Why would I lend my services to a city that doesn’t work for me?”
On Tuesday, Jefferson, now 23, a member of the Philly Coalition for REAL (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice, was joined by other activists outside that same gray tower of municipal offices to announce their opposition to the Democratic Party and its convention, July 25-28 in Philly.
“Some dumb party,” Jefferson said of the Democrats, to cheers from fellow activists, “to throw a big party in South Philly, wants to come in, pretend they care about us, and leave.”
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Claiming racial oppression and economic injustices by the Democratic Party and the city of Philadelphia, the protesters said they plan to “shut the city down.”
“We are here specifically to protest the Democratic Party. … The party that’s run this city into the ground and destroyed the lives of millions of black and Latino people,” said Scott Williams, an organizer with the International Action Center.
“Hillary Clinton, you are not welcome in Philadelphia,” said Shani Akilah, an organizer with the Black and Brown Workers’ Collective. “We will make sure that you are living in chaos when you come to Philadelphia. This is not a threat, this is a promise.”
Protesters demanded the city commit to not arresting any protesters, allow protests during rush hour, close the prisons which are expected to hold protesters ifthey are arrested, and redirect an estimated $60 million in “subsidies” to the DNC toward city schools and other public services.
City officials said the “subsidies” claim is inaccurate. The city is receiving $43 million from the U.S. Department of Justice specifically designated for security purposes.
Nine of 23 applications for protest permits during the Democratic National Convention have been approved as of June 23, the latest date for which information was available. Permit applications for the groups at Tuesday’s event are pending, but the activists plan to march, regardless.
Police officials said Tuesday they are ready for whatever actions protesters take during the DNC.
“We’re going to respond to protests during the DNC the same way we respond to protest any other day of the week,” said Philadelphia Police Department Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan. “This department respects the First Amendment and we see ourselves as protectors of the First Amendment. We’re here to support the rights of protesters, not to take them away.”