(Photo by Hanae Mason)
On day two of Netroots Nation, attendees challenged the assumption that contemporary digital activists and organizers’ tools exist exclusively behind a screen by taking their fight to the streets.
While the first day of the convention was primarily focused on creating dialogue — speeches and panels, trainings, an organizational fair, and affinity group caucuses — Thursday’s protest at Hahnemann University Hospital set a precedent for the rest of the week’s successive demonstrations and disruptions.
Shortly after the start of Friday’s opening sessions, at 10 a.m. in the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s Broad and Arch Streest atrium, a coalition of media professionals and advocates organized by PhillyCAM held a press conference in opposition to a proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that would potentially defund public access television by year’s end. Speakers included Dana Floberg of Free Press, Cayden Mak of 18 Million Rising, Steven Renderos of Media Justice, Devren Washington of Media Mobilizing Project, and PhillyCAM’s Vanessa Maria Graber.
Graber noted that this is just the latest of a series of regulations from the current administration that would simultaneously reduce government accountability and transparency while limiting public and local control and access. MMP’s Washington emphasized how these threats to digital inclusion disproportionately affect marginalized communities, particularly those that are poor and/or of color. The coalition wants citizens to learn more about the proposed rule (Docket NR 05-311), sign this petition, and pressure elected officials to speak out against these changes .
Less than an hour after the press conference, the Philadelphia police had already surrounded the Convention Center by bike and overhead by helicopter as hundreds of Netroots attendees and local Philadelphians made their way to the corner of 12th and Arch for the scheduled 11:30am “Lights for Liberty” march. This was one of many planned actions in the area that were part of a nationwide day of action to protest the reported impending ICE raids and handling of immigrants imprisoned in detention centers like Berks Family Residential Center in nearby Leesport, PA.
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The crowd, led by Miguel Andrade of Juntos and YahNé Ndgo of Deep Blu Womyn, traveled up Arch towards Broad, circled City Hall, and shut down Market on its way to ICE’s Philadelphia headquarters at 8th and Arch St., which is housed in the same building as Gov. Tom Wolf’s Philadelphia office. Chants of “off the sidewalks and into the streets,” were directed towards the pedestrians and drivers watching the procession and met with mixed responses — honks of solidarity, heckling, raised fists, annoyed stares.
Andrade told Generocity that there were about 1,000 participants in the march. According to Philadelphia-based protestor Audra Wolfe, the action’s start time and Center City location “may have stopped more working-class and people of color from joining.” As there will be more raids, there will also be more opportunities for those folks to join future marches.
The streets were not the only things that got shut down at Netroots on Friday.
An afternoon panel of attorneys general from around the country, including Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, was also interrupted as protestors pressed him to respond to their concerns regarding three key demands: supporting progressive criminal justice reforms in Philadelphia, expanding second chance programs and policies, and repealing new state legislation that directs some powers away from district attorneys to the AG.
Shortly after the session began and the first two panelists, attorneys general Kathy Jennings of Delaware and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, finished introducing themselves, Rick Krajewski of Reclaim Philadelphia and other organizers stood up during Shapiro’s intro, walked to the audience mic in the middle of the room, and directly addressed the AG. As Shapiro attempted to respond, protesters chanted “yes or no” meaning they wanted him to give direct answers.
(Audio and photos by Hanae Mason, audiogram by Sabrina Vourvoulias, for Generocity)
Shapiro eventually agreed to cooperate with all the demands adding, “Let’s continue to work together to deal with this. Let’s not get distracted by these other fights.”
A second and smaller march took place around 4 p.m. from the Convention Center to El Fuego restaurant at 7th and Walnut, where a group of Black legislators prepared and served food for an hour in solidarity with workers’ fight for a fair living wage. In PA, tipped workers, like many of those who work in food service, are paid as little as $2.83 an hour, a rate that has not changed in almost three decades. The Raise the Wage Act calls for One Fair Wage — a policy that would require employers to pay workers, including tipped workers, a full minimum wage of $15 an hour plus tips. The participating electeds were Philadelphia-based state senators Art Haywood and Vincent Hughes; state representatives Jordan Harris, Stephen Kinsey, Joanna McClinton, and Chris Rabb; and Allegheny county’s state representative. Summer Lee.
Netroots Nation officially concludes tonight with the highly anticipated Democratic Presidential Candidates Forum at the Convention Center, starting at 3:30 p.m., and two final actions at the nearby Friends Center bookending the marquee event.
This morning, MOVE member Mike Africa, Jr. will be leading a radical black history bus tour with points of interest in North and West Philly. The bus will pick up at the Friends Center at 11 a.m.
Then immediately following the Candidates Forum, an alternative Netroots space entitled “Roots IRL” will convene from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The purpose of the space is to bring Philadelphia organizers together to return to their radical tradition of in-person community building.-30-
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