*Philadelphia: KWRU protests PA welfare cut-off date FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 13 Mar 1999 11:11:00 -0800 (PST)


FWD  March 3, 1999

The Kensington Welfare Rights Union led a protest and memorial service
on March 3rd, the first cut-off date for welfare reform in
Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands of welfare recipients (25,000+ in the
next month) risk being cut off welfare unless they are working 20 hours
a week. However, in Philadelphia there's only one family-supporting job
for every six people who need that job.

Other states reaching this point have seen increasing hunger,
homelessness, suicides, family break-ups, people forced to drop out of
college and many other crises. One recent study found that 50% of
families whose welfare benefits were cut became homeless.

At 11 AM at the State Office Building (home of the Department of Public
Welfare's main offices) hundreds of people gathered together for a
protest and memorial service. Welfare Recipients were joined by Labor
Unions (including 1199C), students and professors from numerous local
colleges and universities, (including almost the entire Temple
University School of Social Work), representatives from several
churches and synagogues, and many others.

The Economic Human Rights Choir started the event, singing both
original and traditional songs that express our struggle.

Speakers included rabbis and ministers, Henry Nicholas, President of
the Hospital and Health Care Workers Union 1199, Philadelphia City
Council Representative Angel Ortiz, KWRU Executive Director Cheri
Honkala, Lai Har Chung from Asian Americans United, representatives
from the Temple School of Social Work, representatives from New
Jerusalem, a Philadelphia recovery community, and others. All lamented
the injustice of welfare reform, and echoed the central theme of the
event: We need living wage jobs now!

Cheri Honkala spoke to the strength and determination of people
fighting for their lives and their families lives everyday. "We need
the basic human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights: food, housing, health care, and a job at a living wage!" She
continued, "And if people cannot achieve these basic needs, then we
will teach people to take their rights!"

After a prayer, the crowd silently marched through downtown
Philadelphia, two by two, carrying pictures of families and children
who were victims of welfare reform. They marched to the Liberty Bell,
where six men and women illegally laid down on the lawn in front of the
Liberty Bell, while the others ringed the lawn. Wearing skull masks and
covered with American Flag shrouds, they laid between giant signs
proclaiming "The Impact of Welfare Reform in the USA."

The crowd silently paraded past the six , pausing to lay flowers next
to them, as stories of economic human rights violations from across the
country were read. A number of people risked arrest by blocking a
nearby street, but were not arrested.

The six people laying down resolved to stay there, waiting to be
arrested.  After a few hours passed, the local Police and Park Rangers
gave citations to them, but left after giving the citations. They
remain out there as of this update, despite severe weather warnings,
and some severe weather.

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