A lawmaker is indirectly ensuring that the nearly $3 million paid to the Philadelphia Police Department for working overtime to escort activists in the streets, amid a noticeable uptick in protests since the inauguration of U.S. President Mr. Donald J. Trump, will have a return on investment for the City.
Of course the City will never recoup actual dollars spent, but Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym, a Democrat, appears to be betting that her expertise in organizing and participating in social movements will mold the mass of energy into a sustained engagement in local politics, thus providing the City as a whole with the wherewithal to augment its image as hub for civic engagement and voter participation.
Last week, Councilwoman Gym at the Arch Street Methodist Church organized ‘Beyond the Protest,’ a community action meeting that attracted 600 people and resulted in 1,100 commitments to concrete public actions.
And weeks before that Thursday evening event, wherein local groups shared a space to commit to growing and sustaining resistance against Mr. Trump and the GOP’s agenda, Mrs. Gym was the lone City Councilperson at the Philadelphia International Airport standing in solidarity with families impacted by the President’s travel ban, which targeted seven Muslim-majority countries.
She’s among the newest additions to the Philadelphia City Council, taking office in January of 2016, yet Mrs. Gym in this moment could easily win the title of most public, vocal and engaged in movement-building. When families whose loved ones were turned away at the local airport held a press conference at City Hall with the Mayor and an assembly of lawyers, Mrs. Gym, the daughter of immigrants, was the lone City Councilperson speaking truth to power.
The extreme vetting executive order wasn’t nearly vetted enough, the Councilwoman quipped at the lectern.
Indeed, at a time where many citizens are craving forward-thinking leadership and tactical resistance, especially from their elected representatives, Mrs. Gym is emerging as Philadelphia City Council’s most valuable player, the only lawmaker in that bunch post-election who’s lacing up their shoes to march with the outraged people.
My heap of praise and attention for the Councilwoman isn’t to diminish the work of her peers but rather to challenge them in this moment to march and organize with Mrs. Gym and those taxpayers they represent, on various issues that threaten the City’s and the nation’s vitality. The people are in the streets, so that’s where the leaders and politicians should be, too.
And they’re not simply in the streets because of abhorrence to Mr. Trump, but due to, in the words of Mrs. Gym, “the realization that constitutional and human rights freedoms are at stake.”
In terms of a politician’s role in the resistance, the Councilwoman is leading by example, and her esteemed peers would be wise to follow her.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photos courtesy of the author.