Biden’s Headquarters Rents A Fence To Stop The Poor People’s Army

| Resist!

Cheri Honkala tells Ann Garrison that the Biden campaign headquarters threw up a rent-a-fence when they heard the Poor People’s Army was coming.

“The only efforts they make in our neighborhoods are to make sure that the dope flows freely, and the campaigns throw around enough money to get some people to show up and vote for them.”

Cheri Honkala is a founder and coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights  Campaign (PPEHRC) . We spoke after she was arrested outside Biden campaign headquarters on the opening day of the virtual Democratic National Convention.

Ann Garrison: I see you marched from Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell to Biden’s Philly headquarters and got arrested yesterday. What did you do to once again menace the foundation of our American institutions?

Cheri Honkala: We challenged American institutions by saying they shouldn’t be run by corporations. But that’s America — the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for rich people and corporations, and the right to struggle, get sick from preventable diseases, get shot on your block, and get locked up for poor people. We want a different America, a different world. We threatened the institution of the Democratic Party by pointing out all the issues they ignore.

I got arrested for “trespassing” on a sidewalk because the Biden campaign headquarters was too high-and-mighty to meet with us and decided to throw up a rent-a-fence the day before our widely publicized event. I hopped the fence to get our demands over to the building, which is normally open to the public just fine but that happened to be fenced off on the day that the Poor People’s Army had announced its plan to march there. We had business with Biden’s campaign: we wanted to talk to him as people who have legitimate grievances. We were exercising our 1st Amendment Rights, and I delivered our demands, which included:

  • Unite immigrant families and children
  • Transfer the war budget to provide healthcare, housing, and food for people
  • Meet with PPEHRC homeless families that are forced to live in abandoned houses
  • Take leadership from community on ending gun violence

AG: Tell us what’s going on in North Philadelphia and your neighborhood, Kensington, in particular.

CH: People are shooting dope on every street corner out in the open. They are defecating in the streets, they are sleeping in the shit. They are selling their bodies for money. And 12-year-olds patrol their turf in bulletproof vests; teenagers have shootouts.

The cops sit in their cars, paid off or asleep, or harass citizens. Poor people live in an alternate reality. That’s why we did a “Poverty Reality Tour” for the presidential candidates on Monday morning, but only Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker showed up. We have done these reality tours throughout the years, showing people what the poor neighborhoods, especially Kensington, are really like. And sometimes we create tours to show our own children what rich, gated communities are like because they haven’t been exposed to anything beyond the hood. We want them to dream big of the abundance of wealth that is available for all people, but that’s deliberately kept from them so that others can have four and five houses, and throw away as much food in one day as they eat in a week.

When people talk about “Third World countries” or the “developing world,” that’s where I live right here in the USA. And that’s how over half of all Americans live.

AG: NPR’s WHYY-Philadelphia’s report  on your arrest says that Biden’s campaign headquarters there are right next to Philly City Hall and that they’d built a fence around it. That suggests they’re not much interested in unmediated contact with the general population there. Did they make any effort to campaign in Kensington or other poverty-stricken neighborhoods during the primaries?

CH: The fence was new, thrown up the day before our march. It’s a busy, busy central city building. Perhaps one of the busiest buildings in Philly, with offices for all kinds of businesses and people. Then somehow, on Monday, opening day of the Democratic National Convention, when the Poor People’s Army was coming, they closed it off to the public. That’s not coincidence. That’s fear. The only efforts they make in our neighborhoods are to make sure that the dope flows freely, and the campaigns throw around enough money to get some people to show up and vote for them.

I ran for state representative three years ago in a special election, and because I ran as a Green, and people dared to come out and vote for me in a Democratic Party city; they were intimidated, and there were ultimately three voter fraud and intimidation convictions and one admission of responsibility in District 197 during my election.

The Democrats come at you hard if you are challenging them. They come harder at independents than at their so-called opposition party, the Republicans. Well, we’ve always been independent; poor people know that their problems aren’t magically solved by a Democrat in office. Most of us have lived under Democratic, so-called progressive mayors, and our lives continue to get worse and worse. We are here to announce our political independence, and we want a new system that puts #LivesOverLuxury. We know the Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of the rich, high-end luxury condo developers and buyers more than any kid in the city who didn’t have breakfast that morning, or any senior who is choosing to pay for a medication over a meal. This society is sick, and COVID-19 is just the latest example of preventable diseases that are killing off poor people while rich people profit and get all the best healthcare they need.

AG: What else is the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign doing to protest the virtual Democratic Convention?

CH: The best thing we can do is to build our Poor People’s Army to  to challenge both the RNC and the DNC. And we did. We hosted an incredible People’s Movement Assembly on August 16th, and the #LivesOverLuxury March on August 17th. We used this time to discuss all the issues that impact us and come up with plans for our own solutions. We had people joining the Army left and right. We need to educate our soldiers about which side they’re on, how we challenge those in power, and, ultimately, how we take back the resources we need to survive, and how we survive and take power. We do that 365 days a year, but we always ramp it up every presidential year, and this was a huge success, especially given all the challenges of organizing during this pandemic.

AG: The actions you and the PPEHRC are best known for are homeless occupations of empty buildings. A sign displayed on your Facebook page says that there are ten empty houses in Philadelphia for every homeless person.

CH: We have new research by a group of PPEHRC-affiliated geographers mapping out the number of abandoned properties in Philly compared to the number of homeless people. We found out there are ten vacant properties for every person experiencing homelessness. This absolutely matches with our lived experiences. Homelessness and gentrification get worse, exacerbated by the current economic and health impacts of COVID-19, and so the Poor People’s Army is expanding housing takeovers across the city and the country.

AG: I read WHYY’s report on the arrest, and their reporter seemed to be particularly concerned about whether or not PPEHRC members will vote for Joe Biden. Is there anything you’d like to say about this, particularly given that Pennsylvania gave its 20 electoral votes to Trump in 2016?

CH: No matter who wins in November, we lose. Normal people lose. Poor people lose. As I said, the most progressive Democrats belong to a party that sells us out for the corporations in town. They hand out corporate welfare and tax abatements to corporations but cut cash assistance like General Assistance in PA. These policies kill people, and it’s both corporate parties that agree that luxury of the few is more important that the lives of the many. That’s why this was the #LivesOverLuxury March.

“They hand out corporate welfare and tax abatements to corporations but cut cash assistance like General Assistance in PA.”

We on earth have an abundance of resources to take care of every human being. But it’s misdirected, it’s hoarded by the wealthy. Wealthy, empty high rises, and ten abandoned properties for every homeless person. A child could give you the solution there: put the homeless people in the empty houses. That’s what we do, no matter it’s Biden or Trump in office. No one is coming to save us but ourselves. Politicians of all stripes make laws to make it easier for the rich to steal from the poor, then blame the poor for being poor. They write laws to criminalize the poor but loopholes for their friends on Wall Street. They find deals and rehabilitation and pardons for their rich friends, but dope and death and detention for our neighborhoods. Vote for who you want to, but don’t pretend that it will save the planet or the poor.

AG: Are the poor and homeless populations you work with registered to vote?

CH: Most people I work with vote. Many people I know choose not to vote, or vote for third parties. They shouldn’t be demonized for understanding that they’ve been forgotten. Poor people are the ones corrupt politicians come running to before elections to buy our votes. If you live in my neighborhood you don’t have much faith in elections, and most of us would like to see election monitors come into our neighborhoods.

AG: Lastly, how has COVID-19 affected you and your community? The last time we spoke you were sick in the hospital, and the medical staff had given you the standard-of-care medical treatment for COVID, even though you’d tested negative, because all your symptoms indicated COVID.

CH: I was lucky to have advocates from across the country, and some very important friends who are doctors and nurses helping me. That’s not most people’s experience. People have been turned away from hospitals; more than 50% of people in the largest shelter tested positive for Covid. Homeless people need to be housed. Quality healthcare and ways to stay healthy needs to be accessible and available for everyone. Their solutions are to roll portable showers and hand-washing stations into the dirty streets. We say take people off the streets. We live in a land of plenty. The only problem we face is the organization and political will. Once we get those things in order, we can take back our country from the billionaires and corporations. While practicing mutual aid we can continue to help people find ways to be healthy, but at the end of the day, we only get what we are organized to take. So the Poor People’s Army is organizing, and we are getting ready to take back what belongs to the people. Join us.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize   for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann(at)anngarrison.com

  • Who D. Who

    We need to smash the two-party system, break it up into many small pieces, from which might form a handful of groupings that would need to dialogue with the others in order to form coalitions in order to govern. The need for dialogue and cooperation would instantly civilize political discourse in the country.

    Petitioning the Democratic party to respond to the pressing demands of the least privileged has long been an exercise in futility. I don’t understand why the new left wing of the Dems doesn’t strike out on its own. Otherwise they will be thrown under the bus every time. Maybe they like the shade there. A new party devoted exclusively to their specific concerns could play a vital part in a hypothetical popular left-wing coalition.

    Trump may appear to have saved the Republican Party from complete ruin, but in reality he is hastening its demise. And in their pathological hatred of Trump, the Dems appear to be accelerating their own train wreck, especially as they appear to offer nothing alternative, politico-economically.

    It is to be hoped that from the ruins of those two institutions, a new dispensation will arise.

  • The Great Satan

    More worthless people that want others to pay for their hordes of children.

    Not going to happen. I will support “free” abortion but after that, it’s “your body your choice your problem”.

    My luxury > your lives

  • Speaking of worthless people ^^ What a creep…

  • The Great Satan

    I’m not going hungry

  • Of course not – “me first to hell with everyone else”, amirite?

  • The Great Satan

    Pretty much. Why would I help worthless people who are too stupid to stop breeding? Better to let them die of Covid and I prove the gene pool.

  • dreamjoehill

    Please drop dead, immediately! You are utter filth.

  • dreamjoehill

    Too bad. Of course starvation is far to slow a death for you.

    Poison would be quicker and more effective.

  • iowapinko

    Thoughtful post, WDW, rational thinking seems to be ever so rare and precious during these unstable times.

    There is only one party in the capitalist system that oppresses us all, it is the party of money. The people and the planet have no value or relevance in this system beyond our exploitative potential. We are expendable and bereft of human rights.

    The functioning of this late stage system of unfettered exploitation has spit out yet another absurd election process, pitting a white supremacist fascist with sociopathic, narcissistic mental health disorders and a 50-year record of criminal corruption versus a corporate stooge with dementia. An insane fascist or a corrupt dem-republican well past his freshness date.

    The U$ working classes have never enjoyed a democratic process; the board is tilted so that our interests are impossibly disabled. We can’t win this game, and our options dwindle further with each cycle.

    I am undecided, however, regarding the need to remove Trump from office, by any means necessary, even the virtually unthinkable strategy of voting Biden. It is the innocent people of the world who are most at the mercy of a fascist madman who has the capability to destroy us all on a whim; a prospect which he is fully capable.

    I cannot help but imagine the last brief interlude before the bombs explode, considering “could we have stopped this if only we had swallowed our pride and voted this madman out?”

    I am curious what you think about this quandry……

  • The Great Satan

    And 5.56 would be right for you.

    You will do nothing because you are nothing.

  • The Great Satan

    All the worthless children going hungry while I drink imported beer! It warms my heart.

  • Who D. Who

    Faced with such a choice, I refuse to vote, just as I refused to vote in 2016 and 2012. I voted for the Obomber in 2008, but the scales fell quickly from my eyes.

    The “fascism”, incidentally, has long been folded into the system. It’ll remain there after Drumpf has gone.

  • iowapinko

    I fully agree we are experiencing the outcome of decades of increasingly egregious corporate-controlled and fully corrupt government.

    I grew up in a neighborhood of holocaust survivors and went to school with their children. So I learned from their tragedy and understand that what we experience right now in the US, dysfunctional and criminal as it certainly is, has the potential to descend quickly to a much more dangerous level, both domestically and internationally.

    Those of us who reside within the borders of the U$ ave been historically privileged in that we have been isolated from much of the violence of war (so much of that violence perpetrated by our own govt). The leaders of the plethora of nations currently with a U$ target on their countries do not enjoy the privileged protections as we do in the U$, and I must disagree with you, WDW, they are not ambivalent regarding the outcome of the 2020 elections.

    NONE of this means I support or condone Biden in any way. I plan to be in the streets Nov 4, irregardless of which criminal takes power.

    Many wise people have emphasized that the electoral process in the U$ is not an effective mechanism to create social change. This is a correct assessment.

    Regardless of how we vote, this system requires radical, fundamental change that will only materialize when the people organize and manifest our strength in order to fight the oppressive system and build a new world.

    Hope to joion together with you in the streets WDW.

  • dreamjoehill

    You are worse than nothing.

    Clearly no one would mourn your death, you worthless POS.

  • Who D. Who

    Thanks, Iowa. I wish I could join you, but I live in France, and we’re not even allowed to protest anymore here.

  • iowapinko

    What about the yellow vests?

  • August 21, 2020
    The Day After Election Day

    SNIPPETS:

    “The American posture that elections create the political system has it perfectly backwards. What better way to counterfeit the consent of the governed than through a system of choice controlled by establishment interests? By analogy, does the choice between two brands of corn chips define the range of food that can be eaten?” — Rob Urie

    “When the novel coronavirus hit, the first instinct of the political class was to shovel trillions of dollars into financial markets, while creating a temporary economic bridge for working people. For the second time in a dozen years people were told that there’s no money for public programs like Medicare for All, but unlimited money for Wall Street.” — Rob Urie

    “The liberal political model of separate spheres of government and commerce is an ideologically motivated fabrication. To the economists, it isn’t a ‘mixed economy,’ and to the reformers, the problem isn’t ‘money in politics.’ The neoliberal ethos is private governance, the integration of private and state power for the benefit of capital and the rich. It ties back to electoral politics through the illusion that government is a distinct realm governed by and for the citizenry. Neoliberalism is governance by and for capital. And it has been the reigning, bi-partisan political ethos in the U.S. since the late 1940s, but particularly since the 1970s.” — Rob Urie
    Full article:
    counterpunch DOT org/2020/08/21/the-day-after-election-day-2/

  • Who D. Who

    They’re mostly lying low for the moment. The heavy-handed Macron police have made it almost impossible to congregate. Covid has been a gift to the French govt., immediately dissolving, at least temporarily, McRon’s Gilets Jaunes problem.

    The Yellow Vests are also an interesting contrast to the chaotic identitarians presently raising hell in the US. A genuine grassroots workers’ uprising, the Vests have very specific demands and critiques of the system, have articulated them well, and have some major intellectuals on their side (Michel Onfray, Natacha Polony, Juan Branco, who is also a lawyer for Assange).

    I’ve talked to the Gilets, given them wine in the early going when they were out there daily in the cold, but as a foreigner living here by the good graces of the government, I have refrained from taking to the streets with them. (It was also very dangerous, at the height of the movement.)

    They are mostly average Joes and Janes who can’t make ends meet and feel marginalized in French society, even while working hard and paying their heavy tax burden. They are also highly skeptical, like most of the French working class, of most of the memes, domestic and foreign, fed to them by the mainstream media.

    I was thinking of doing, or proposing, an article on them for US consumption (the locals even said they would “take me to their leader” in Bordeaux), but then Covid hit.

    A final note on BLM/Antifa. Their unceasing emphasis on race has often seemed to me reactionary and exclusive of larger economic concerns. And their obsessive rage against Trump mindless and all too convenient to the system and the media. On the other hand, the policing they are protesting is a very, very serious problem, and they have all my support and approval for forcing this issue. If serious police reform comes out of this unrest, it will all have been worth it.

    Time will tell.

    But, even here in France, Antifa is often a divisive presence. While they have sometimes fought the cops valiantly at the height of the Yellow Vest movement, they have also harassed journalists (often just citizen journalists) simply because they suspected them of having an “incorrect” viewpoint. They even sparked a brawl in one demo, in Marseille, I think, where it was Vests vs Antifa. The Vests’ alliance with Antifa remains an uneasy one.

  • iowapinko

    Thank you for sharing this information, WDW, much appreciated.

    Yes, Covid-19 surely has limited the potential of many of the “uprisings” currently sprouting around the world. I had participated in planning for a massive protest/direct action event at the DNC convention in Milwaukee. The interest in participation was extremely widespread, and there were indications that the protest had potential to rival that at historic 1968 Chicago Dem Convention.

    It would have represented a broad-based coalition of left-wing labor, anti-capitalist, anti-racist and environmental activist groups, and established a foundation for future organizing efforts.

    The Covid-19 deflation of this movement-building event is nothing short of a tragedy. We need to build on and expand current anti-racist movements, link them to anti-capitalist and labor struggles, as well as environmental activism.

    People within these movements are rapidly distinguishing the connections. The united front format required to manifest our power is beginning to materialize. After decades of stagnation, there is a sense that the U$ left is finally beginning to develop and evolve and grow. These are challenging, dangerous and invigorating times, WDW. Stay safe.

  • Who D. Who

    Thanks, Iowa. You stay safe too. I’d hoped to come to the US this fall, but it’s looking as if that won’t be possible.