At our People’s Movement Assembly, one of the sessions will reveal new research by a group of PPEHRC-affiliated geographers mapping out the amount of abandoned properties in Philadelphia compared to the amount of homeless people. The numbers, as we can all imagine, are shocking and murderous, where there are 10 vacant properties for every person experiencing homelessness. In the ongoing crisis of homelessness, exacerbated by the current economic and health impacts of COVID-19, the Poor People’s Army is expanding housing takeovers and counseling groups across the country doing so. While some of the takeovers are publicized as a political strategy, many of the takeovers remain private out of necessity to avoid displacement. With the coming foreclosure and eviction crisis that is sure to come in the months ahead, and as we head into colder winter months, the tactic of housing takeovers will be even more crucial to keep people alive. Through this work, PPEHRC will also work to recruit more soldiers into our Army, as people realize collective strength in organizing.
Like the housing takeovers, our Tent Cities have always doubled as a project of survival as well as a political statement and place for political education. In addition to the presence on government-owned land and the political discussions at the Assembly, people will be fed and have access to safety equipment like masks and sanitizer. Artists will display sculptures and paintings that show the violence of a political and economic system that ignores the plights and dreams of the Poor, and there will be a place to create and display hopeful visions of the new society we want to create. We will have dance, live music, and other performances.
Then, on August 17th, we will rally and march for our political independence.
We believe that revolutionary change is on the horizon. This summer has been full of uprisings across the country (and the world) against police brutality and racism. More and more people are losing faith in capitalism and its guardians and whatever may come after capitalism under the hand of the rich. Increasing numbers of people understand that CEOs and politicians do not have our interests or lives in mind as they plan for whatever comes next. As more and more people are impacted by joblessness, diseases, climate catastrophes, lack of access to the basics of food, housing, education and a recession that has become a depression, they are craving solutions. We are part of a movement that teaches them “we are the answer to our problems,” we need the power to control our own destinies.
While the system has failed so many for so long, the government’s response to Covid-19 and the economic depression is creating a growing equality of misery among the so-called 99%. Our point is not to say that the public health, economic, and police brutality crises are hitting all people the same. Everyone’s background means that people are experiencing different ways they are targeted for neglect, oppression, and denial of human rights by the system and our country’s leaders. But we are living in a unique time where more sections of the population are unable to take care of themselves and their families, and are losing faith in the system. Young people of all races are supporting Black Lives Matter actions because they see their future connected to justice for Black Americans—they see a problem with a system that prioritizes military and police spending over a livable planet or healthcare for all people.
So far there have been more pandemic deaths among those in poverty and those that are living in urban areas. This has impacted poor people of all colors. We also know that systemic racism creates conditions where American Indians, Black people, and Latinx people are five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than whites. While economic misery and bad healthcare for poor people of all races is nothing new, there is a growing number of so-called “middle class” people and professionals being thrown into the ranks of the poor. Within just four months, nearly thirty-three million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits, and nearly half of all U.S. adults are jobless. Mainstream studies are predicting that many of these jobs will be lost forever, as employers adapt to the new normal. The speed of automation will increase to deal with populations that can become sick, need childcare, healthcare, and food. Fourteen million kids in the U.S. today aren’t getting enough food to eat. We know these problems will multiply exponentially due to climate disruption.
And during this time of increasing misery for so many, the billionaires in the U.S. have increased their wealth by 20% in the last three months.
The Poor People’s Army seeks to unite a growing class of people that are losing work, do not want to live at the whim of billionaires, and will need to take control of society’s wealth and resources in order to end oppression and inequality forever. We will be announcing the location for our “Trump-Bidenville” in the coming weeks, where we will provide meals and people will be welcome to set up camp or visit, and use the space to discuss all these ideas. We know there are crucial lessons that the organized poor can offer the rest of our class, people that are losing their jobs, and those who understand how precarious their work and security are. We will explain how we operate our projects of survival—networks of people keeping people alive by any means necessary, to fight another day.
At 4:00 p.m. on August 17th, opening day of the DNC, the Poor People’s Army will amass poor, homeless, and working people from across the country at the Liberty Bell on Independence Mall to declare our political independence from the two corporate parties that don’t care about poor people. From there, we will march down Market Street to Joe Biden’s headquarters at 1500 Market St.