215 People’s Alliance

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215 People’s Alliance is a multi-racial collaborative dedicated to fighting for equity and justice in Philadelphia - at the ballot box, and in the streets. It is a front for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Leaders

  • Bryan Mercer is a founding member and serves on the steering committee of 215 People’s Alliance. In this role he helped design and lead a campaign to end the state take over of Philadelphia public schools and run a grassroots GOTV effort to set ending mass incarceration as a priority of the Philadelphia District Attorney.
  • Arielle Klagsbrun is involved with the 215 People’s Alliance.
  • Todd Wolfson is a Steering Committee member at 215 People’s Alliance.

Kendra Brooks victory

On Tuesday November 5 2019, Kendra Brooks, running on the Working Families Party ticket, won one of two at-large Council seats that Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter effectively reserves for non-Democrats. Both seats have been held by Republicans for almost 70 years. In January, she will become the first Council member from outside the two major parties in the 100 years since the body adopted a modern legislative structure.

Without the infrastructure of a major party, Brooks and her campaign manager, Arielle Klagsbrun, largely built their operation from scratch. But they could not have won without the efforts of a preexisting network of groups whose members knocked on thousands of doors, held fund-raisers, and posted constantly on social media for Brooks and her fellow Working Families Party candidate Nicolas O'Rourke, who came up short in his Council bid.

Tapping into the organizational strengths of grassroots groups was always part of the plan. Brooks sits on the steering committee of 215 People’s Alliance, and O’Rourke is an organizer with POWER, an interfaith progressive organization. When dozens of groups came together last year to write the People’s Platform for a Just Philadelphia — a manifesto of the city’s left — Brooks and Klagsbrun led the effort.

Increasingly focused on electoral politics, the groups have worked together in recent years to score major victories, including those of District Attorney Larry Krasner, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, and several state representatives. But those candidates ran in Democratic primaries against party-backed opponents. The Working Families Party campaign for Council marked a new level of ambition and coordination for the local progressive movement — and the clearest demonstration yet of its power in city politics.

Most of 215 People’s Alliance members are in Southwest Philadelphia and the western half of South Philadelphia — mirroring the turf led by Williams’ political progeny. Reclaim Philadelphia is strongest in South Philadelphia and the river wards — the historically Irish American neighborhoods long controlled by the trades unions

Reclaim Philadelphia shares an office with 10 other progressive groups on the fifth floor of a building in Chinatown. They call it “the People’s Headquarters.”

Sitting in a room lined with campaign posters and voting precinct maps two weeks before the election, Amanda McIllmurray, Reclaim’s political director, ran through past instances in which her group had worked with Brooks: Krasner’s election, the fight to restore local control of Philadelphia schools, State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler’s campaign.

“She’s just someone who has always been there and has always shown up,” McIllmurray said.

The activist groups that carried the Working Families Party banner this year didn’t just aid Brooks’ campaign. In many ways, they were the campaign.

“This is our movement. It’s bigger than Nicolas and Kendra,” Brooks said at a rally in Northeast Philadelphia two weeks before the election. ”There’s so many organizations that have supported this campaign, and there’s so many folks that are going to take us all the way.”[1]

Alliance for a Just Philadelphia

Local activists Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke are running on an independent Working Families Party (WFP) ticket for two at-large city council seats, with a platform that centers the interests of Philadelphia’s most neglected residents.

Philadelphia — like Bridgeport and Hartford, CT, where the WFP has also spearheaded campaigns — has laws that prevent a single political party from controlling every seat on its city council.

The result is to give Republicans significant representation on the city council.

But this year, acoalition of groups has come together with a vision of building a left-wing city council. If Brooks and O’Rourke can outperform the top-performing Republican candidates, they will manage to reduce Republican representation from three to one, and replace the two at-large Republicans with representatives who would be the left-most members of the council. They would form an alliance with progressive Democrats already on the council. One of those progressives, Councilwoman Helen Gym, is a former community organizer who was first elected as a Democrat in 2015, and is the council’s top vote-getter.

Over the strident objections of the local Democratic Party, Helen Gym has openly called for supporting the Working Families slate. Together, the three would form the core of a powerful left bloc on the council.

On the assumption that Brooks and O’Rourke will get next to no votes from Republicans, winning requires convincing enough of the city’s reliable Democratic voters to vote for three Democrats and two WFP candidates, rather than five Democrats. Because of Philadelphia’s strong Democratic base, it’s virtually impossible for WFP candidates to draw enough Democratic votes away to cost the Democrats an at-large seat. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped the local Democratic machine from trying to crack down on the WFP candidates’ grassroots support.

Why Philadelphia needs left representation does not require any elaborate explanation. What was once one of the largest manufacturing centers in the world, with a highly skilled and heavily unionized workforce, is now one of the poorest big cities in America. Among major American cities, only Detroit has a higher poverty rate than Philadelphia, where just shy of a quarter of the city’s residents are officially poor.

Highly segregated and aggressively redlined, Philadelphia was nevertheless historically a place where black residents — who make up 45 percent of the city’s population — could become homeowners, due in part to the city’s large supply of old housing stock. But the foreclosure crisis did enormous damage to black residents’ home values, causing acute losses to what little wealth many in the city had been able to accumulate in their homes. The city has been the site of a major school takeover and privatization effort, pushed by an alliance of Republicans in state government and “reformers” at home.

The candidacies of Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke represent the latest, perhaps most ambitious undertaking of an impressive array of forces that began to converge around efforts to elect a Democratic governor in 2014, continued with Helen Gym’s first city council campaign in 2015, and escalated with a fight to end the state-imposed “School Reform Commission” and the election of Larry Krasner as district attorney in 2017.

This year, organizers at the 215 People’s Alliance facilitated the creation of a citywide people’s platform under the banner of the “Alliance for a Just Philadelphia.” This effort allowed some thirty organizations to vet city council candidates running in the May primary collectively and laid down clear markers about what the city’s left wanted to see from the council.

O’Rourke is an organizer with POWER, an organization that represents congregations and faith leaders located across Pennsylvania, and also a pastor of Living Water United Church of Christ. The son of an electrician and a former CWA member, he has helped lead on the issue of police accountability with the Coalition for a Just District Attorney.

Brooks is a public education activist, and single mother of four, who lost her job and then her home to foreclosure in the wake of the Great Recession. A longtime resident of Nicetown, she has been a leader with Parents United for Public Education and the Our City Our Schools coalition, and is a founder of Stand Up Nicetown, a group committed to ending gun violence in her neighborhood.

O’Rourke and Brooks are running on a radical platform that centers affordable housing, school funding, wages, and a local Green New Deal. Neither O’Rourke nor Brooks has ever run for office, and they are doing so this year in open defiance of the local Democratic machine. They are exactly the sorts of working-class candidates that the Left needs if we are to build a genuine mass base for our politics.

This year’s race is the first in memory where insurgent third-party candidates have a real shot at winning. In addition to a host of community organizations and labor unions, the candidates have been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and by several local elected officials, including some who, like state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, were elected with support from DSA and WFP in 2018. Philadelphia district attorney, Larry Krasner, has also endorsed Brooks.

The attention and numbers would seem to signal that they have a real chance to win. The campaigns have raised over $350,000 combined, and Brooks has raised more than any third-party candidate ever in a Philadelphia city election. What’s more, they have several hundred regular volunteers, drawn from the city’s community organizing and union infrastructure.[2]

2019 215 People’s Alliance slate

The membership of 215 People’s Alliance is supporting a slate of movement candidates for this May's primary election. We're backing candidates who are committed to working-class people and building a more just Philadelphia. Here's your chance to get involved and make sure our representatives are accountable to our communities.

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These candidates are: Helen Gym, Erika Almiron, Isaiah Thomas, Justin Diberardinis and Ethelind Baylor.

Movements are won through people power. Join us, be a part of a sea change in Philadelphia's chambers of power, and volunteer as a part of 215 People’s Alliance PAC field program!

2018 215 People’s Alliance endorsements

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In 2018 215 People’s Alliance endorsed:

Canvassers

215 People’s Alliance May 15, 2017:

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Tomorrow is Election Day!!!! Polls are open 7AM to 8PM so you can cast your vote for Larry Krasner for DA. Our Monday evening canvasser are hitting the doors right now, but there's still time to get out the vote tomorrow. Hit us up! We got shifts going out at 8am, noon and 4pm! — with Ociele Hawkins and Sean Wise.

215 People’s Alliance May 17, 2015 · Edited:

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Yesterday we completed our goal of knocking on every door in 8 divisions in the 9th Councilmatic District. Here's the canvas crew minus Nancy Dung Nguyen and Teresa Engst who were already out in the field. Alexa Ross, Ralph Branch, Todd Wolfson, Emily Mayer, Bryan Mercer, Patricia Eakin.

215 People’s Alliance May 10, 2015:

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With Ron Whitehorne, Bryan Mercer, Patricia Eakin, Dinah DeWald and Rebekah Scotland Phillips.

215 People’s Alliance May 10, 2015

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With Mitch Chanin Dinah DeWald, and Diane Payne.

Vote Justice slate

215 People’s Alliance May 19, 2015 ·

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TODAY IS THE DAY FOLKS. Nurse Patty Eakin on why she's going to #VoteJustice:

"I am excited by this election because I think we have a strong slate of candidates who are willing to fight to make this a city for everyone, not just for the city elites and the downtown corporations like Comcast.

As a nurse I know that one of the biggest predictors of poor health is poverty, and Philadelphia is the poorest of America's big cities. Jim Kenney and our endorsed city council candidates have pledged to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour because no one can provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their children on $8 an hour."

The #VoteJustice Slate is Jim Kenney for Mayor, and Sherrie Cohen, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Wilson Good, Jr. and William Greenlee for City Council. Learn more about the #VoteJustice slate at http://215pa.com/.

References