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2000-07-31

A Reality Tour Through Philadelphia

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Continuing with the discussion on money in politics, the City of Philadelphia gave a whopping $7 million to the Republican National Convention. [includes rush transcript]

But this money pipeline flowing in Philadelphia this week is set against the backdrop of a city plagued by serious poverty. It’s sort of like the tale of two cities.

Well, as delegates and journalists collect their corporate-sponsored gift bags and go on tours of the Convention Center and make the rounds through the corporate suites at night, a group called the Kensington Welfare Rights Union has been taking journalists and others on what they call Reality Tours through the poorest areas of Philadelphia.

Tape:

  • Philadelphia Reality Tour

Guest:

  • Rene Maxwell, homeless advocate from Chicago who is collaborating with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But right now, as we move from Billionaires for Bush, we’re going to talk about the tale of two cities. As we’ve said, a lot of money pouring into Philadelphia this week. More than 240 corporations, government agencies and other sources have poured in more than $40 million for the Republican National Convention.

Again, the figures: Bell Atlantic, $3 million; AT&T, $1 million; Microsoft, half-a-million dollars; Philip Morris pumped in a quarter of a million dollars; weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin doled out $100,000. And this, by the way, is only for the convention. We’re not talking about these very same corporations contributing to the Republican Party, to George W. Bush and, of course, on the other side it’s to the Democrats, as well.

But this money pipeline flowing into Philadelphia this week is set against the backdrop of a city plagued by serious poverty. It’s a tale of two cities. As delegates and journalists collect their corporate-sponsored gift bags and go on tours of the Convention Center and make the rounds through the corporate suites at night, a group called the Kensington Welfare Rights Union has been taking journalists and others on what they call “reality tours,” through some of the poorest areas of Philadelphia. We’re going to take that tour right now.

    REALITY TOUR GUIDE: Welcome, everybody, to our Reality Tour. This is the sixth tour that we’ve done. We started them yesterday. This is definitely the most full that this bus has been. The reason that we’re doing the Reality Tours is because we know that the spotlight of the world is focused on Philadelphia right now because of the Republican National Convention. And we want to make sure that the real issues that are taking place here in Philadelphia and throughout this country are shown to the rest of the world.

    Philadelphia is a city that is claiming to be back from the edge of bankruptcy, a place where people should move to, live to, come visit. That’s the projection that the city wants to give to the world. But what we want to show you today is the fact, the neighborhoods that are not experiencing or benefiting from this economic boom that we’re having in the United States. These are neighborhoods where poverty is getting worse every day, where homelessness is growing, people are being cut off of welfare, they’re not able to find jobs, and it’s just a situation that is continuing to get worse.

    And we know that as the Republicans gather over at the First Union Center, they’re not going to be talking about these issues, and we wanted to let people know that aren’t at the First Union Center that are watching their TVs and reading the newspapers and just coming to Philadelphia to visit, let them see what’s really going on here.

    Right now, we’re heading to Bushville, which is an encampment that has been set up for poor and homeless families that are coming from throughout the country in order to participate in demonstrations during the convention. The numbers of people staying there are growing every day. Last night there were over a hundred people that slept at the tent city, even though it was raining and all that stuff. People were sleeping under the tents. And more people have arrived today, and we know that the numbers will continue to grow as we go further into the weekend.

AMY GOODMAN:

And that was a tour that I took on Saturday. In the morning, there was almost no one on the bus, and then it started to fill up. This is the Chamber of Commerce, was taking — giving people a very different tour, as we went up to Kensington. And again, as I said at the top of the program, Juan, some really interesting figures that we learned on this tour, like 44 percent of registered voters in Philadelphia voted for the last president, voted in the last presidential election. In Kensington, 17 percent of registered voters, and, of course, that doesn’t even represent the eligible voters in the city.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And it’s fascinating, Kensington — I know the neighborhood very well from my years here — is a neighborhood that is not only poor, but it has poor white sections, poor Puerto Rican and Latino sections and also many African Americans live in the neighborhood, so it’s actually one of the most integrated neighborhoods, but all in terms of poverty and neglect on the part of the city in terms of how the community is treated.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, right now we’re joined by Rene Maxwell, who is a lead organizer with the Chicago Coalition to Protect Public Housing here in Philadelphia, working with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, which is planning a major demonstration for today. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Rene Maxwell.

RENE MAXWELL:

Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN:

Tell us about Kensington and the Bushville that’s been set up.

RENE MAXWELL:

Well, Kensington and Bushville, which has — it’s assembled what America will look like if the agenda is not changed to speak of a people needs. Right now, all across the nation, people are in need of low-income housing. And from being from Chicago, I’m seeing communities being destroyed, where condominiums and market-rate housing is coming up all across the country.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Now, what’s been the city’s reaction to the march and to your activities for today?

RENE MAXWELL:

Well, the city’s reaction has been one of maybe somewhat confused, because they’re wondering exactly, you know, why isn’t the GOP addressing the needs of the people. And so, they’re in support of the Kensington group, and at the same time they’re really optimistic.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

But in terms of the city officials, I understand there was some problems in being able to get a permit?

RENE MAXWELL:

Well, that was beyond me, because some of the groups that I’ve seen that has gotten permits — I’m sure that the Kensington group really do qualify for a permit. I mean, you must remember that last year, October 1st to November the 1st, we marched from D.C. to New York and without any incidents whatsoever. So I really don’t understand what the — what it is really all about, because, if anything, this is a community, this Kensington group is family, and they are really focused on this housing crisis.

AMY GOODMAN:

Rene Maxwell, you’re here at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The last eight years have been Democrats at the federal level. Of course, there’s also Democrats here in Philadelphia running the city, now John Street. So will you be going to the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles?

RENE MAXWELL:

I’m pretty sure I will, because one of the main reason, because we have to stay focused. Right now, all over the nation housing is being downsized, and many communities are being just swept away. The big developers has come in and is just making money, money, money.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, on that note, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

RENE MAXWELL:

Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN:

In the next segment of the program, we’re going to be looking at, well, a picture of the city that the Chamber of Commerce and the corporate media has not been emphasizing, though in the last few weeks it has even come to the corporate media screens. And that is the story of police brutality. We are talking to Rene Maxwell, lead organizer with the Chicago Coalition to Protect Public Housing, joining with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union for a major protest today in the streets of Philadelphia.

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