I woke up this morning to find out that environmental activists were already blockading the Chase bank on JFK Boulevard to support the resistance of indigenous peoples in Canada against a gas pipeline through their lands.
Then before I got out of the apartment to head to my demonstration, Jewish activists had already been arrested for blocking Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters in an effort to encourage him not to attend the AIPAC convention.
I arrived at the Phoenix Hotel at the corner of 16th and Arch, where Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General for Pennsylvania, has an office on the third floor. People from the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration and Amistad Law Project were already gathering. They had prepared a large number of signs on Sunday.
I grabbed one that said “Shapiro Show Mercy” and went to stand on the corner facing traffic so that all the cars going by would know why we were there. I also got a chance to explain to pedestrians who stopped to ask that we were urging Shapiro to stop blocking commutations of prison sentences that the Lieutenant Governor and all the other members of the Board of Pardons had voted for. Despite the rain, more than 50 people joined the group, listening to speeches and chanting in favor of commutations for people who have changed their lives while in prison. In the judgement of the other members of the Pardons Board, they are ready to rejoin the community.
After an hour in steady rain my 76 year old bones were starting to hurt and my shoes were soaked through, so I left to catch a bus home. I was interested to see about a dozen uniformed police officers waiting in the lobby of the office building at the corner of 17th and Arch. In recent demonstrations I’ve noticed that the Philadelphia police officers on site tend to be older, out of shape men in civilian clothes with armbands identifying them as police officers. I surmised that these younger, bigger, fitter guys were waiting in the wings in case we engaged in civil disobedience like the other two groups Most of the people in the commutation demonstration did not have the privilege of knowing that arrest for civil disobedience would only result in the inconvenience of tickets or court appearances. So there were no plans to block Shapiro’s office. Just calls from the sidewalk outside for him to show some compassion.