This is What Democracy Looks Like

Last week at City Hall, community leaders rallied with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Kranser to deliver a message to Republican legislators moving forward with their attempt to oust the city’s first progressive prosecutor from office. Following the recent PA House of Representatives’ impeachment of Krasner, Republican legislators have moved the process into the PA Senate for a supposed trial in the coming weeks.

The booming voices in the Mayor’s Room at City Hall made one thing clear: Nothing will deter the progress that our movement has made and the change our communities need. Philadelphians will not stand by as self-serving, disconnected politicians attempt to override the will of the people.

Lorraine Haw, known in the community as Ms. Dee Dee, opening up the press conference

The press conference opened with Lorraine Haw (Ms. Dee Dee), from the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration, speaking passionately in defense of the progressive policies Krasner has pursued since being elected in 2017. “We voted [Krasner] in. Not once but twice…I speak as the sister of a brother who was murdered by gun violence and as a mother of an only child who has been incarcerated going on 28 years [of a life without parole sentence.] This man [Krasner] has done more for me than anybody. If you impeach Krasner, you impeach all of us,” she said to the cheers of other mothers who lost loved ones to violence and mass incarceration in the crowd. 

Kris Henderson, the executive director of the Amistad Law Project, spoke about the transformative perspective Krasner has brought into the Philadelphia criminal legal system and how that has concretely manifested. Specifically, Krasner has demonstrated his support for second chances by streamlining the commutation process and rejecting the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, which serves as both a symbol and a weapon of mass incarceration.

“There are people in this room right now who would not be home if we didn’t have District Attorney Larry Krasner,” Henderson proudly stated, shining the spotlight on people in the room who were former juvenile lifers, commutation applicants, and exonerees. Formerly incarcerated leaders—including Kevin Butler, Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, Sappho Fulton, Eric Riddick, and Donny Ike Jones—stood alongside survivors of interpersonal violence—including Movita Johnson, the mother of two sons murdered by gun violence— illustrating the interconnectedness of the system of incarceration and the dire issues facing our communities.

Philadelphia is not a colony of Harrisburg, and our elected officials are not going to be impeached or appointed, by MAGA-Republicans upset at our audacity to resist their harmful racist policies.

–Robert Saleem Holbrook
Robert Collier, the president of the Black Clergy, speaking about the hypocrisy of the Republican’s attempt to oust DA Krasner from office

Members of Philadelphia’s faith community condemned the impeachment process as a political circus, an assault on Black and Brown communities in Philadelphia, and an attempt to dismantle our democracy. “When previous DA’s were locking Black people up for walking backwards—and nothing at all—there was silence from Harrisburg and Republicans. Now that Krasner has stopped that and has reformed the office, they have a problem. Where were they before?” asked Robert Collier, the president of the Black Clergy.

However, amidst the political spectacle, the will of the people has spoken through the gains of progressive prosecutors across the country—including recently elected progressive civil rights attorney Pamela Price in Alameda County. In Philadelphia, Krasner explained, “We are seeing the MAGA wing of the Republican Party acknowledging that they cannot win elections against criminal justice reform because that is what the people want.” 

Krasner spoke of the silencing of both Philadelphians’ votes as well as his own voice, as legislators attempt to duct tape his mouth shut. The attack on his office’s policies through impeachment sets a dangerous precedent that, if used elsewhere, would invalid the foundation of our democracy. “Imagine, if you can impeach anyone because of their policies, no election will be final,” he said. This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, according to Krasner, that the Senate has moved to impeach or remove an official from office for their policies and ideas. “This [impeachment process] is something you do for crimes…or for deep corruption. None of that is even alleged or charged here,” Krasner said.

A broad coalition of community members of all races and classes—from elected leaders to community organizers, gun violence survivors, anti-violence activists, teachers, health care workers, and faith leaders—convened that day to defend Philadelphia’s first progressive district attorney and defend the constitutional rights of Philadelphians to elect their officials. They unapologetically raised their voices for justice, democracy, and the well-being of our communities. 

After the press conference, community members, elected officials and DA Krasnser filed out to City Hall’s courtyard where they took some group pictures. Robert Saleem Holbrook, executive director of Straight Ahead, said, “Philadelphia is not a colony of Harrisburg, and our elected officials are not going to be impeached or appointed, by MAGA-Republicans upset at our audacity to resist their harmful racist policies.” The will of the people speaks through our votes as well as our voices, and Philadelphians refuse to allow either to be suppressed. 

Organizations in attendance: Working Families Party, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, New Pennsylvania Project, All Voting is Local, SEIU Healthcare PA, Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity, National Action Network, Amistad Law Center, Abolitionist Law Center, Straight Ahead, Womxn Beyond Borders, Human Rights Coalition, Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, and more.

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