October 2011

A Fair Shot at the American Dream?

Even though US House GOP Leader Eric Cantor chickened out of his long-planned lecture at the Wharton School of Business, Fight for Philly – along with a host of other organizations and community members and activists – still held a march and rally in his “honor.”

The purpose of this warm welcome was to highlight Cantor’s refusal to speak to the 99% of Americans, his policies with regard to income inequality, and his denial of responsibility for the creation of good jobs.

Cantor’s speech was allegedly about income and wealth inequality – problems that he recently suggested elected leaders should be doing something about (imagine that!).

His speech was titled “A Fair Shot at the American Dream Economic Growth,” and is no doubt a great topic, given that income inequality in this country is currently as high as it’s been since the Great Depression.

But how serious was Cantor’s speech going to be? An aide, in talking to the DC insider publication The Politico, said that speech would zero in on “how we make sure the people at the top stay there.”

The last time we checked, that’s one of the causes of wealth inequality, not one of the solutions!

But Cantor didn’t even try. In canceling the event, Mr. Cantor has let it be known that he just doesn’t think this issue is worth addressing.

Fight for Philly member Paula Wall was at the Locust Walk rally on Friday to share with the crowd her version of the American dream.  She asked Cantor – and all elected officials – to start paying attention to the people and communities being the hardest hit by this economy.

Here’s what she said:

“I’m here to talk about jobs. I’m from West Philadelphia, and I’m here to tell Eric Cantor that we want our jobs. We need good jobs. We need to go home, just like him, to be able to feed our families. Give back to our communities so we can stand up and survive.”

Watch the video here:

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Crowd Elevates Discussion On How Big Banks Have Harmed Our Schools

Last Thursday, twelve neighborhood activists — school teachers, concerned parents, and students — gathered at the Kensington and Allegheny El stop, across the street from one of the largest Wells Fargo branches in Philadelphia.

We gathered to rally in support of Philadelphia’s schools, bringing a clear and powerful message to the banks:

It is simply unacceptable that Big Banks like Wells Fargo demanded around $90 million from our public schools for cancellation fees for the risky deals that they pushed on our schools—especially at a time when schools are being shut down, programs are being cut, and teachers are being laid off.

Our energy and voices made it crystal clear that we will not take this injustice laying down, and we were greeted by equal determination from the crowd that gathered.

Take a look at some of the pictures from the event:

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Oct. 21, 2011: Rep. Eric Cantor Is Forced to Cancel Speech About “[Making] Sure The People at the Top Stay There”

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Why Won’t They Walk With Us?

Last Thursday, Fight for Philly brought activists from Philadelphia’s blighted neighborhoods to Wells Fargo’s and Senator Toomey’s door in Center City.

We took a “Garden Tour” through neighborhoods in the North, Northeast, West and Southwest sections of the city.  What was painfully clear was that these neighborhoods have been neglected for far too long.

Watch the video here:

As we got off the bus and walked around to take a closer look at our city’s abandoned and foreclosed homes, and our crumbling bridges, streets and sidewalks, we took note of how our neighborhoods became like this.

Volunteers discussed how corporations and the tax loopholes that they exploit actually starve our communities of the funds that would actually be used to keep our communities clean and running.

In all, the tour highlighted the fact that we could put thousands of people back to work fixing our neighborhoods.  But our local and national policies don’t work in our favor—even though we’re the ones that are paying our fair share.

Instead, lobbyists and politicians like Senator Pat Toomey are creating policies that favor the interests of big banks and corporations over the well-being of our communities—and not only maintain their stronghold on our economy, but actually strengthen it.

That’s why we’re Fighting for Philly.  That’s why we’re showing what’s really going on in our communities.  Big interests and sellout politicians have been blind to blight for too long, and it’s time they open up their eyes and their ears.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing!

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Our Actions ARE The Message

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Toomey was quoted in an insider DC paper called The Hill.  He had some convenient and wishful things to say about our work:

I’m not sure this movement is going to last if it doesn’t have some reasonably clear and cogent purpose and message and so far I haven’t seen that,” he said to Pennsylvania’s WKOK news radio. “For the most part there just doesn’t seem to be a coherent message.”

Although none of us can can predict what will happen with this movement as a whole, I do know actions speak louder than words.  All of these actions are a dramatic resistance to the greedy, “all for yourself” attitude and the influence it has on our lives and in our nation’s politics.

Pat Toomey, you for one should know about a loud and clear message. We’re literally shouting it outside of your office.

What is unclear about 200 people outside of your Philadelphia office, chanting “Jobs Not Cuts” last Thursday? What is unclear about 500 Philadelphians calling corporations out for tax dodging—which you enable—on Walnut Street last week?

What is making you so deaf and blind to our message?

Funny enough, you said in that same interview that “all of us who are in public office raise money at the same time that we’re going about our legislative service. It’s a permanent feature of the American government…This has no impact on the policy that I’m advocating.”

But could the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from banking associations be one of the reasons why you’re literally running away from us?

Or could it be denial that your signature policy – that corporate tax breaks creates jobs – is utterly and entirely false?  Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax rate is the lowest it’s been since 1990, and yet our unemployment and underemployment rates are abysmal. If corporate tax breaks worked, where are all the jobs?

Frankly, our “movement” (your words, not ours) has already succeeded in changing the dialogue, because right now, you’re talking about how there are people on the streets demanding change.

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Senator Toomey and Wells Fargo: Blind to Blight

On Thursday, October 13, 2011, West, Southwest, North and Northeast Philadelphians embarked on an “Infrastructure Garden Tour.” Fight for Philly volunteers were picked up from various locations in West and South West Philadelphia, with a final destination of downtown Philadelphia.

There, we demanded that Wells Fargo pay their share and that Senator Pat Toomey support The American Jobs Act.

The bus tour consisted of neglected bridges and roads, abandoned lots, and foreclosed homes. While on the bus, volunteers shared their personal stories about their communities and how their neighborhoods have changed for the worse.

Here’s what West Philadelphia community member Geraldine Jordan said:

“I have seen a decline in her neighborhood. It is devastating to see littered lots, abandoned buildings and small businesses that have been shut down and lack of employment within my community.”

When we stopped at 52nd & Baltimore, we got off the bus and walked around the area. We had conversations about Fight for Philly with the neighbors, and they were ready to get involved as we knocked on doors and handed out fliers.

When we arrived downtown, the group was extremely excited and ready to take action. Once we got off the bus, we were joined by Occupy Philly and other Fight for Philly volunteers from across Philadelphia. The sounds of fired up crowd—made up of Philadelphians of all walks of life—surrounded Wells Fargo.  It was truly astonishing that, despite the diversity of people—from very different neighborhoods and backgrounds—had a common purpose in an astonishing view of individuals who represent the face of Philadelphia.

The crowd started chanting words like “Who broke Philly? Wells broke Philly!” and “The banks got bailed out and we got sold out,” as police surrounded us and refused to let anyone in.  At first, they said that only customers could go in.  But when we found a customer, suddenly the bank branch was “closed.”

As we began our march to Senator Toomey’s office, the crowd gained even more energy. That was when we began to sing “Toomey, Toomey can’t you see, good jobs are what we need.” When we were told we needed to make an appointment, members of the crowd began to dial the senator’s office. In the end, nobody was allowed to physically get into the office.

We chanted that “we’ll be back,” and mark our words, we’ll keep that promise until Senator Toomey meets with us face-to-face and explains to us why he is blind to the blight of our neighborhoods.

Fight for Philly’s neighborhood teams are growing in numbers and engaging community members everyday. Our message is being heard and we are ready to take things to another level. We are recruiting volunteers and having events all over Philly. The time is now to create a powerful group.

Find an event near you by going here: http://fightforphilly.org/category/events/month

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Occupy Philly: Full of Ideas and Leadership

On Friday, Occupy Philadelphia led the hugely successful and energizing “1% Rally to Rittenhouse” down Walnut St and around Rittenhouse Square. There were hundreds in our streets, with more joining every block and applause from the bars.

The 1% Rally to Rittenhouse focused on corporate accountability and fairness. It had a clear message, conceived, researched and written largely by Bri, a valedictorian grad of Moore College of Art & Design. Bri went to meetings late into the night, researched her facts, met with experts, wrote her rallying cries and wielded a mean megaphone.

Others were right there with her.  They made artwork, handed out flyers, and echoed chants. They knew the issues. They know this country needs to wake up, and with their support, they are doing their part!

This is true patriotism.

Yet, the media obsessed with polls about whether Occupy should stay or go. They’ve also had some soft, nice stories about the Friends Center’s help—which is, of course, great—but it concerns me that our mainstream media is turning a blind eye to the real story.

Why is false reporting about the cleanliness at Occupy taking precedence over coverage of the issues and the solutions expressed through Occupy’s direct actions?  It creates a very false impression that there’s “no message” and no clear goals.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although the Occupy movement is organic and unpredictable, these marches don’t just happen. These rallies require young leaders to step up and put their feet, heart, time and sweat where there imaginative and amazing minds lead them.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Taking ideas and making it real requires hard work and guts. Occupy Philly has some amazing gutsy New Patriots, and you can be sure that they’re the region and the nation’s next generation of fired up activists.

I am proud to know them personally. In fact, Fight for Philly and Occupy Philly have quite a lot in common. We’re both ready to take action.  We’ve both got a lot of grit.  And we both know that something is not right with the way that Philadelphia works.

You should come meet them as well.

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Fight for Philly In The News: Philadelphia Weekly, ABC6, FOX29 and CBS3

If you were watching the news last week, then you probably saw: Fight for Philly and Occupy Philly blanketed the local news coverage last week.

Take a look at this quick compilation of all the local TV news coverage that we got last week:

And the Philadelphia Weekly is out with a great article about last Thursday’s event:

“Many in Fight for Philly [have] focused much of her populist anger on Toomey and Wells Fargo. And not just because Wells Fargo is a bank. Or because Toomey is a politician. But because of the swaps deals the bank participated in with the local and state governments. And because of Toomey’s uncanny ability to shrink himself down and hang out inside the pockets of big banks and Wall Street firms.

“By the time we head to Center City, the bus is filled to capacity. Every time we travel under a bridge, Rivera and Fried give statistics about how Pennsylvania’s infrastructure is crumbling and at this point, there’s no real way of knowing when the city’s bridges will fall or who’ll be on them when they do. She says this, of course, stopped at red light on North Broad, a bridge directly above our heads.”

“The demonstration in front of Wells begins at 4. A crowd…[stands] in front of the bank’s 15th and Market branch, chanting many of those same chants repeated on the bus. Occupy Philly protesters join the fight, too, as do members of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and passers-by.”

“No one’s allowed into the Wells Fargo office to speak with the bank. And when one member of the protest tried to go in to—since that protester was a customer—it turned out the bank was closed. Demonstrators chanted ‘Shame’ at the bank.”

Read the full text here.

We’re starting to become known in Philadelphia for our action and our message: it’s time for politicians to listen to us, it’s time for big corporations to pay their fair share, and we will hold them accountable.

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Oct. 13, 2011: Fight for Philly Volunteer Members Tour Blighted Neighborhoods and Foreclosed Homes

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Oct. 13, 2011: Fight for Philly Calls Pat Toomey and Wells Fargo “Blind to Blight”

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