Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
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[….]
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 witnesses this. The last thing poor folks have is their voice. We can’t let that be taken too.”
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.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Mayor Jim Kenney, center, makes a campaign stop at Philadelphia’s City Hall in April. (Matt Rourke / AP)