Five years and 239 school shootings after the massacre of Sandy Hook – years during which the politicians hired by the gun lobby have repeatedly used “thoughts and prayers” to silence any serious discussion about addressing the madness of a society awash with guns, including automatic weapons meant for the battlefield – the dam has been broken by a group of energized and furiously angry high school students.
Temple Socialist Students condemns the recent opening of O’Connor Plaza. Not only is the project a waste of resources used to further a vanity project –intended to feed the ego of Temple’s Board of Trustees Chair– it honors a man whose “contributions” to the community include gentrification, union-busting, and defending rapists.
The actions of Patrick O’Connor reflect the actions of Temple University and vice versa. Temple’s mishandling of sexual assault and its reluctance to make significant changes should come as no surprise when the man at the helm of Temple University has defended Bill Cosby from facing justice. O’Connor’s law firm, Cozen O’Connor, proudly advertises its services as legal provocateurs, attacking workers trying to unionize.
O’Connor brings these anti-worker and anti-democratic practices to Temple, fighting tooth and nail against attempts by Temple workers in the struggle for better wages and working conditions. Finally, there is the question of the Temple Stadium, and the racist gentrification policies that it represents. O’Connor has worked tirelessly to drive out the existing North Philadelphia community to make room for development that aims to personally enrich himself and the one percent.
While O’Connor uses his position to fatten his own pockets at the expense of others, he uses Temple’s funds to build monuments to himself while tuition continues to skyrocket and adjuncts wait for a raise. Tuition and state tax dollars should be funding education, not Patrick O’Connor’s ego. Temple’s hundreds of millions in construction expenditures are used on many aesthetic projects, like repairing the Bell Tower, replacing a perfectly good Paley library, and of course O’Connor plaza, while many departments at Temple suffer from budget deficits. This is not only fiscal irresponsibility, but fiscal absurdity.
Patrick O’Connor is not a friend of North Philadelphia, nor students and Temple employees; he is the Donald Trump of Temple University. Patrick O’Connor is anti-woman, anti-black, and anti-worker. He does not belong at Temple University and his name does not belong on Founder’s Garden.
- Patrick O’Connor must immediately resign and leave Temple University.
- O’Connor Plaza should be renamed after someone who has made a positive contribution to North Philadelphia and/or Temple University.
- Abolish the Board of Trustees’ undemocratic structure and replace it with a democratically elected body made up of Temple employees, students, and community members.
As soon as Amazon announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters outside Seattle, elected officials from across the nation predictably responded to its ‘request for proposals’ by tripping over each other in a race to offer massive public subsidies and tax incentives to woo Amazon. Philadelphia’s elected officials from both the Democratic and Republican Parties have behaved no differently.
Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney slavishly tweeted, “We think Philadelphia would be a PRIME location for Amazon that would make people SMILE! Look forward to submitting a proposal!”
This week, the Kenney administration had taxpayers buy a plane ticket for a city envoy to visit Seattle and “help understand Amazon culture” and demonstrate our city is “serious about competing for the headquarters.”
At-Large Republican Councilman David Oh introduced a bill to City Council on Thursday that “reduces the business net income tax to zero” of relocating “mega-businesses” like Amazon that employ over 50,000 workers.
Amazon is worth $460 billion, and its CEO Jeff Bezos will soon be the wealthiest man in the world. Bezos’ personal net worth is $84.4 billion dollars. He is one of 8 men who control half of the world’s wealth. Bezos and Amazon have accrued this massive wealth by ruthlessly exploiting workers in the US and abroad, crushing attempts to unionize, using its monopoly power to gobble up real estate and push up land value and housing costs in Seattle, and pushing small business owners out of markets.
In any city it expands to, Bezos and Amazon can afford to pay business taxes, income taxes, and property taxes. They can also afford to pay decent wages, and provide healthcare benefits and pensions for all of their workers. Instead of ‘wooing’ Amazon here with the promise of low wages, subsidies and tax breaks, Philadelphia’s political establishment should be taking the fight for a $15hour minimum wage, statewide single payer healthcare, and full funding for our schools to Harrisburg and DC. As badly as we need to address structural unemployment and poverty in Philly, spending millions of public dollars in exchange for a ‘promise’ to bring thousands of low wage, part time, dead end jobs will only result in increased corporate profits at our expense.
We need to stop to the nationwide corporate tax rate race-to-the-bottom. When cities compete against each other to offer corporations like Comcast and Amazon tax incentives, the big losers are our own residents. One third of Philadelphians live in poverty and our schools face enormous budget deficits. SEPTA is unreliable and one of the most expensive public transit system in the country. Public housing is being cut while gentrification and a shortage of affordable housing is pushing us out of our neighborhoods and threatening low-income residents all over the city. Should we really be competing with Chicago, Denver and Baltimore over who can give Amazon the most public money?
When establishment politicians like Mayor Kenney and Councilman David Oh offer public money that should be going to schools, housing, and city services to wealthy corporations for private profit, it is clear they stand with corporations and not with working class people.
Building power and organization outside the Democratic Party.
In Seattle, Socialist Alternative City Council member Kshama Sawant, led the fights that passed a $15 minimum wage and a tax on the wealthy. Sawant and SA are now building a coalition to campaign for affordable housing and supporting the independent Seattle City Council campaign of DSA member John Grant.
In Minneapolis coming off of the recent win for $15 minimum wage, Socialist Alternative member Ginger Jentzen is running for city council as an independent on a platform of tenants rights, affordable housing, taxing the rich to fund city services, and resisting the Trump agenda.
In Philly, we are working to build real alternatives to the establishment political machines. We need independent organizations of our own to fight back against corporate hegemony and poverty in our city. We need a political party of the 99% that can run independent candidates for local offices, and not just any candidates but fighting, accountable, independent candidates that take no corporate cash.
Yo Kenney! Say NO to Amazon’s economic coercion and demand better for our workers for the right to do business in our city:
- A moratorium on state and local public tax subsides to corporate profits
- A $15 minimum wage
- For permanent full-time jobs with a future
- Free higher education and job training
- Free on site childcare options for employees
- Full union rights for all employees
- for a tax on the wealthy to fund public schools, public transit and affordable housing.
“The solution is in no way to turn away from technological innovation, the logic of economies of scale, or ease of access to goods and services. Instead, we need to unionize, and to take these behemoths into democratic public ownership, so that they are run not for profit for a few, but in the interests of the majority of working people and of society. However, this can be achieved only by building powerful movements that are independent of the politicians and parties that have aided and abetted corporations like Amazon. In Seattle, our movements need to continue to build the fight to end homelessness, make housing affordable for all, and fully fund social services.” – Kshama Sawant Seattle City Council
- Prosecute Killer Cops
- End Stop and Frisk Now
- Real Community Control Of The Police
The white supremacist demonstrations and the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville have laid bare what people of color in Philadelphia already know: working people – and specifically Black and Brown people – face systemic violence on a daily basis in the United States.
From open police aggression in the street, to the structural defunding of urban public schools districts, to deportations in immigrant communities, to slave labor in prisons and hyper-low wages in the service sector, working class people in America struggle to survive. Overt racism and the resurgence of white supremacist organizing is not confined to the South. And racism itself isn’t confined to the KKK and the politicians like Donald Trump who directly abet them.
Structural racism is built into our society’s laws and the political actions of our elected officials at every level. Therefore, when we fight white supremacy, we must bring the fight home to Philadelphia. Our struggle must place demands on people like Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Richard Ross and District Attorney Kelly Hodge. And as workers, activists, unions and faith-based organizations, we must build the mass movements in the streets to press these elected officials to change the PPD without delay.
Just this summer, we have lost two Black brothers to police violence here in Philadelphia. On August 11th, three police officers shot and killed handicapped man Tyreas Carlyle in North Philly in front of his grandmother. On June 8th, Officer Ryan Pownall murdered David Jones in Juniata as Jones fled. Pownall has a track record of reckless behavior. Seven years before murdering David Jones, Pownall paralyzed Black Philadelphian Carnell Williams-Carney by shooting him in the back. In another recent case, there is a pending federal lawsuit against Officer Pownall for use of excessive force and unlawful arrest for his actions during a routine traffic stop in Philly in 2014. Pownall is still on the PPD payroll. He has not been terminated from his job, let alone tried for murder.
In the midst of this police violence, Mayor Kenney has called Philly “diverse and inclusive.” Democratic City Councilwoman Helen Gym has endorsed the removal of the infamous Frank Rizzo statue. More politicians will join her. Socialist Alternative supports the removal of overt symbols of white supremacy, but words and symbols are just the beginning.
Philadelphians urgently need concrete, immediate reforms in the PPD to ease beatings, harassment and killings at the hands of police in our neighborhoods.
With the combined efforts of the labor movement, faith-based organizations, community organizations, the families of victims of police brutality, socialists and other left forces, we can shut down the white supremacist right, and we can win justice for David Jones and Tyreas Carlyle. We can stop the PPD’s systemic violence against working people, poor, and specifically black and brown people. We can build a broad multi-racial, multi-gendered, working-class movement to fight for racial justice, a 15/hour minimum wage, decent housing, school funding, and all the economic and social issues challenging Philly’s working class communities.
Join Socialist Alternative and Sign the petition
to Mayor Kenney, Commissioner Ross, and Interim District Attorney Hodge to demand that they:
- Prosecute Killer Cops – The State Attorney General and District Attorney must move forward as quickly as possible with a transparent independent investigation into the murders of David Jones and Tyreas Carlyle, who was handicapped. We demand the prosecution of Police Officer Ryan Pownall, holding him accountable for his actions on June 8th and other documented misconduct on the job. We demand the prosecution of all 3 police officers who killed Tyreas Carlyle: Officer Anthony Carapucci, Officer Jason Keen, and Officer Christopher Rycek
- End Stop and Frisk Now- ‘Stop and Frisk’ is a racist police policy Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Ross can end today. Stop and Frisk means police can search anyone at any time for any reason. The policy leaves communities of color exposed to the racial biases of individual police officers. Mayor Kenney ran on eliminating the practice upon his election, and it’s far past time for him to act.
- Institute Real Community Control Of The Police- Give the Police Advisory Commission real authority to investigate, discipline and fire racist and corrupt police officers. Philadelphia needs an accountable, democratically elected community oversight board with full powers over the police.
We extend our sympathy and solidarity to the IWW and to friends and family of Heather Heyer, the IWW member who was murdered in Charlottesville VA by racist thugs while protesting the ‘Unite The Right’ rally.
/Update 8-16-17: as events have unfolded over the past several days there are conflicting reports concerning Heather’s membership in the IWW. We based our initial statement on various news sources and social media statements. We regret any additional confusion our statement may have caused. However whether or not Ms. Heyer was an IWW member, an individual activist, or an member of another left organization, our solidarity and commitment to her memory remains the same. An injury to one is an injury to all. /
While we can and should continue to discuss and debate the best tactics and strategy to build the broadest possible fightback against the racist right forces who have been emboldened by Trump, we have to ask ourselves why was the organized left and the black clergy left alone to mobilize against the KKK and the fascists? The rally in Charlottesville should have been met with massive mobilizations, demonstrations and the threat of strikes. Where were the progressive Democratic Party politicians, unions and community organizations that have the organizational capacity to lead the way against the far right and organize mass protests to stop this hate?
Back home in Philly the war against the working class continues. Developers are intent on turning our city into a playground for the rich. Foreclosures continue, rents are rising and working people are being forced out of neighborhoods where their families have lived for generations, our minimum wage has been locked at $7.25 for years, and fiscal crisis lurks under the surface of every city and school district budget.
While our attention is on the events in Charlottesville lets not forget that the Philly Police have shot and killed 2 unarmed men in the past 2 months. Lets have our vigils and grieve for the fallen, and then continue to fight against the systemic violence against working people, poor, and specifically black and brown people, by building a broad multi-racial, multi-gendered, working-class movement to fight for racial justice, a 15/hour minimum wage, decent housing, school funding, and all the economic and social issues challenging Philly’s working class communities. We have work to do.
Tyreas Carlyle, David Jones, Heather Heyer – We will fight in your honor and we will win.
June 8th, 2017 was a warm early summer evening, and David Jones was riding his red dirt-bike up Whitaker Ave in near Northeast in Philadelphia to meet a potential buyer. He was looking to sell the bike, because even though they are commonly ridden throughout the city, they are not ‘street legal.’ He was afraid the bike would bring him and his family problems with the law. He was right.
Like many Philadelphians, David had previous interactions with the legal system as a young person, and he was working hard to turn his life around and take care of his family. David, known as DJ to friends and family, was Black and grew up in Philadelphia. After high school, he was arrested for selling weed. He was convicted and did his time. When he was released on parole, he followed the rules to the letter. He put himself through school to get his Commercial Driver’s License, and with family and community support, he got a job with an over the road trucking company, despite the challenges that having an arrest record bring. The night he was shot and killed by the police, he had just bought a house in Juniata and was looking forward to a new start with his wife and son.
Instead of meeting to talk about selling the bike that night, DJ was shot in the back as he fled on foot from Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall, who was violating several department protocols to conduct a ‘stop and frisk’ while in the middle of another task. Officer Pownall is assigned to the 15th Police District in Mayfair, but pulled DJ over in Juniata.
When Officer Pownall stopped DJ for riding the dirt-bike, the police officer was transporting 2 young children and their father to the Special Victims Unit. One of the children was the victim of an attempted kidnapping and assault.
During the altercation, DJ was shot in the back 3 times while running away from Officer Pownall. According to the police report, a gun was found at the scene that allegedly belonged to DJ, but none of the witnesses, including the cop, saw him draw a weapon or threaten the officer.
According to PPD protocol, similar to policies in other cities, police officers are prohibited from pursuing anyone riding a dirt-bike, because of the high risk of accident and injury. Police officers are also prohibited from using deadly force “ unless they have an objectively reasonable belief that they must protect themselves or another person from death or serious bodily injury.” DJ was running away from Officer Pownall, attempting to flee and end the conflict. Previously in possession of a gun or not, there was no immediate danger to police or bystanders.
Police video, police reports, and eyewitness accounts differ on details but essentially agree that DJ was running away from the cop when he was shot and killed. DJ was hit by 3 bullets in the back and buttocks. A gun was found at the scene which is reported to belong to DJ. Amazingly, even the Police Commissioner Richard Ross had said that after watching the released video of the shooting that it has “given him pause”. Apparently he is still paused, because the people of Philadelphia, including David Jones family, are still waiting for the prosecution of Ryan Pownall after months of “investigation”.
Shockingly, DJ’s June 2017 murder is not the first time Officer Pownall shot a fleeing suspect in the back. In 2010, Ryan Pownall shot Carnell Williams-Carney, another Black Philadelphia man, in the back as he fled from an altercation during a ‘stop-and-frisk’ in Frankford. Williams-Carney didn’t die after Pownall lodged a bullet in his spine, but is forever disabled, permanently losing the use of both his arms and legs.
After the 2010 shooting, the City Solicitor’s Office investigated the incident, but dropped their case against Pownall. Afterwards, Williams-Carney’s family filed a civil suit against the PPD, but Pownall was found not guilty again. He returned to his job patrolling Philadelphia streets without consequences.
DJ is not the first Black murder victim of 15th Police District officers. Officer Nicholas Carrelli shot a fleeing Brandon Tate-Brown during a traffic stop in Mayfair in December 2014. Tate-Brown’s family has brought a federal lawsuit against the PPD after no one was held accountable for Brandon’s killing.
The tenor of recent protests held by DJ’s family and friends outside the 15th District headquarters and outside the District Attorney’s office have been that of grief and anger. Authorities have been silent on details of their purported investigation, but few have any reason to believe that Officer Pownall or the PPD as a whole will be held accountable for DJ’s murder.
The PPD’s systemic violence against Black and Brown people must end. Officers, specifically in the 15th District, have detained, shot and killed community members with complete impunity. Unfortunately, state-sponsored violence will continue unless we unite as a movement against police violence and organize to make concrete demands on this broken system.
To win Justice for DJ and other victims of police brutality and to halt future killings and daily harassment in our neighborhoods, we must exert sustained pressure on public officials and the PPD.
Many of our elected officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney, have made unfulfilled promises to enact important reforms. First, there is immediate action they can take to prosecute Officer Ryan Pownall under the full extent of the law. Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Ross can end Stop and Frisk as a PPD policy. Additionally, Philadelphia has a Police Advisory Commission with no legal authority to hold the police accountable. The City can legally empower this Board to act.
We call on Mayor Kenney, Police Commission Ross, and District Attorney Hodge to:
- Prosecute and Jail killer cops like Ryan Pownall and Nicholas Carrelli. The PPD and the City must move forward as quickly as possible to prosecute Ryan Pownall and hold him accountable for his actions on June 8th and other documented misconduct on the job.
- Immediate End to the Racist “Stop and Frisk” policing policy, which overwhelmingly criminalizes and injures people of color and feeds Trump’s deportation machine. Mayor Kenney ran on ending Stop and Frisk as Mayor and he should act NOW to end it.
- Put the PPD under the control of an elected civilian review board with real teeth: full powers over department policies, enforcement priorities, investigations, and selecting new leadership. Philadelphia needs democratically elected community oversight boards with full powers over the police, including department policies and procedures.
- End Cash Bail and Civil Asset Forfeiture, leave money in the hands of families impacted by excessive policing of Black and Brown communities.
- End the War on Drugs! Stop prosecution for small amount of marijuana, end cooperation with DEA, expand the city’s drug courts and diversion programs for low-level offenders.
- No Tolerance for White Supremacist police and other law enforcement officers who openly espouse racist ideas or body art or distribute racist literature.
- End Excessive Sentencing and Solitary Confinement
- Keep Philly a Sanctuary City and Close Berks Detention Center — no detentions or deportations for our immigrant brothers and sisters. No collaboration with ICE or state or federal immigration authorities.
- Police out of Philly Schools! Our schools must be safe spaces for children to learn and grow.