May 2, 2018 11:37 am

Philly activists celebrated May Day with a ‘death by incarceration’ protest

Tuesday's "Break the Cages, Fund the People" rally convened hundreds protesting mass incarceration, Immigrant and Customs Enforcement and police presence in schools.

"Sanctuary for all."

(Photo by Ebonee Johnson)

Yesterday, the global working class stood in solidarity to recognize international May Day.

Presidential effigies were burned and union organizers marched to U.S. embassies, as a day historically associated with the festive celebration of the oncoming summer season has more recently become synonymous with anti-capitalist protests and movements around the world.

Here in Philly, those seeking civic action and accountability for public officials gathered at City Hall for the “Break the Cages, Fund the People” rally. Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney (PCJDA) convened hundreds of teachers, students, violence survivors, faith-based workers and members of the reentry population in support of mass incarceration divestment and community investment.

The rally coincides with Philadelphia City Council’s hearings on the Kenney administration’s 2019 budget proposal, which includes an additional $100 million over the next five years to the Philadelphia Police Department.

(Photo by Ebonee Johnson)

Sanctuary city?

This past Monday marked the start of the trial pitting the City of Philadelphia against the Trump administration due to “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to withhold federal money from Philadelphia because of its sanctuary status.”

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Although Philadelphia has been aligned with the sanctuary ethos since mid-2014 and continues to refuse to honor detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless accompanied by a signed warrant, Latinx community org Juntos spoke out against the city out at the rally for continuing to allow access to real-time database of police arrests, the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System.

“We are being attacked by the most aggressive ICE office in the country,” said Juntos member Herlinda Hernandez at the rally, via her interpreter Marissa Piña. In 2017, the Philadelphia ICE field office’s arrest of immigrants without criminal convictions stood at a whopping 64 percent, compared to 38 percent nationally.

ICE “depends on access to a broken criminal justice system to break apart our families,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, in a rally press release. “We ask instead that the city invest in our future by investing in restorative justice programs, pre-arrest diversion programs and our education system.”

(Photo by Ebonee Johnson)

“Death by incarceration, life without parole”

One of the rally’s co-MCs, Lorraine Haw (a.k.a., Mrs. Dee Dee), a leader of the Decarcerate PA campaign Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADI), spoke about losing her brother to murder and having a son who is currently serving a “death by incarceration” sentence. The phrase is used by the anti-prison community to more accurately describe a sentence of life without parole, according to activists.

Read Haw’s Philly.com op-ed on the subject here.

Next month marks the 26th year of Terrell Carter’s sentence. The brother of Kimberly King, another member of CADI, phoned in to the rally from SCI Graterford via his sister to speak of his experience with the criminal justice system as a “vicious cycle of irresponsibility and vengeance” and to describe his anguished journey to acceptance of his actions: “I was the object and cause of so much pain for many people.”

(Photo by Ebonee Johnson)

Other statements:

  • Philadelphia Student Union Executive Director Julian Terrell on police presence in schools: “To the cops that are out here: We believe that you won’t have jobs soon.”
  • Eric Jenkins and hundreds of other Stadium Stompers marched from Temple University at Broad and Berks streets to join the rally and were met with cheers from fellow attendees. “I’m just going to be blunt,” said Jenkins, “the stadium is a staple of gentrification.”

(Photo by Ebonee Johnson)


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