Freedom From Unemployment, Hunger and Homelessness Bus Tour: Day

Tom Boland (
Tue, 2 Jun 1998 10:22:33 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  CC Replies to Kensington Welfare Rights Union <>

     JUNE 1, 1998


[Pictures and more information are available on our website: ]

The day started with a prayer vigil at 7 AM, as the freedom riders gathered
with their friends and supporters. The group then marched from the Liberty
Bell to Schmidt's Brewery, an abandoned factory that is a symbol of the decay
caused by our changing economic conditions. At the Brewery, a panel of
prominent allies of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union served as judges in an
economic human rights tribunal. The crowd chanted "indict, indict, indict!" as
people fought through tears to give their testimonies of economic human rights
violations - being denied education, having their kids taken from them, being
homeless, being unable to find a job that pays a living wage. After this
powerful event, the freedom riders stepped onto the bus.

Later in the afternoon, the bus arrived in Boston Massachusetts, where it
joined a rally at a lot in the South End of Boston where neighbors were
fighting for the lot to fill the desperate need for affordable housing, in the
face of Northeastern University's efforts to buy the lot for student dorms. At
the rally, they were joined by many supporters, including Dottie Stevens of
the Massachusetts Welfare Rights Union (and first VP of the National Welfare
Rights Union), Ed Bruno of the Labor Party and State Representative Byron
Rushing, among others. SEIU Local 285 provided a space to camp for the night.

The story from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

47 touring nation over basic human rights

A mock trial was held at the old Schmidt's brewery. The tour will travel the
nation for a month.

By Herbert Lowe

They prayed yesterday at the Liberty Bell. Then the 75 supporters of the
National Welfare Rights Union marched to the abandoned Schmidt's Brewery,
where they condemned the government for what they called economic and human
rights violations.

"I am here to testify about . . . every human being [ being denied ] the right
to a standard of living that protects the health and well-being of their
family," Edna Winters said during a mock tribunal.

After the trial, Winters and 46 others boarded a chartered bus to begin a
month-long tour of America's poor communities.  The tour is part of a national
campaign to draw attention to the 50th anniversary of a U.N. declaration that
guarantees basic human rights to food, housing, medical care and living wages.

Winters and all but three of the self-described "freedom riders" belonged to
the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, the flagship of the national group's 25
chapters, said Cheri Honkala, Kensington branch executive director and
national co-chairwoman.

The riders, including 15 children traveling with their parents, are or have
been on public assistance or are homeless, Honkala said.

Tour organizers said the bus would visit about 30 cities, including Boston;
Detroit; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Denver; Chicago; El Paso, Texas;
and Little Rock, Ark. At each stop, the riders will participate in marches and
tribunals, and collect more testimonials of economic human rights abuses. The
tour will swing back through Philadelphia on June 29 to meet two more busloads
of freedom riders, and end June 30 in Fort Lee, N.J.

On July 1, organizers said, poor people and their allies will march across the
George Washington Bridge into Manhattan and on to the United Nations. There,
they will present anecdotes collected on the tour, and they hope that
volunteer lawyers will help initiate a "formal case" against the government.

Honkala said last week that her group raised $30,000 to pay for the tour.
Riders expect churches, labor unions and community groups to provide food at
each stop. They plan, if necessary, to sleep on the roadside under tarps.

 "We've got the bus covered, and that's about it," she said. "It's scary and
overwhelming, like nothing that I've ever imagined in my life."

After the tribunal yesterday morning, Winters and other riders told their
hardships to a panel of activists and union leaders, who served as judges.

"The government knows what can be done to stop the homelessness and the
poverty in this country, but they refuse to do anything about it," said Galen
Taylor, an Army veteran who is unemployed.

Taylor also told the panel, which included Henry Nicholas, president of the
Hospital and Nursing Home Employees Union, District 1199C, and Marilyn Clement
of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom: "As long as I can
walk, talk and breathe, I'm going to speak about economic human rights
violations until they are resolved."


For more information, visit our webpage at:

Or contact us at:

Kensington Welfare Rights Union
PO Box 50678
Philadelphia, PA 19132-9720
215/203-1950 FAX

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