On September 21, author and activist Amy Siskind led a We the People March in our nation’s capital to demonstrate that the current status quo is a threat to our democracy and our values.
On the same day, local organizers in more than 60 cities across America held marches and rallies in solidarity with that D.C. march. We led the Philadelphia rally at People’s Plaza on Independence Mall.
The mission statement of the We the People March movement is broad and can mean different things to different people. For us, we decided to volunteer to organize the rally in Philadelphia because we believe our democracy is under attack by President Donald Trump and his allies and that our institutions—from Congress to the courts to the media—are not doing nearly enough to hold him accountable. (Although that has begun to change over the last week with the beginning of an impeachment inquiry.)
It is time for the people themselves—from whom our government derives its legitimacy and authority, after all—to stand up and do something about this.
We have been inspired by the mass, sustained, peaceful protest movements from Hong Kong to Sudan to Algeria that have successfully challenged authoritarian rule, and we have asked ourselves, why can’t this happen here?
First, it is important to explain why we believe our democracy is in grave danger.
Our elections are under attack through a combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression and foreign election interference. The institutions and constitutional system the founders set up to protect our freedom is under siege, as well. Every day brings a new attack on the Rule of Law, the Free Press and, perhaps most importantly, separation of powers through the executive branch’s defiance of Congress’ authority. And last, over the past three years, we have watched with horror as Donald Trump has fueled the kind of racism and tribalism that strikes at the heart and soul of the American experiment: pluralism, diversity and the notion that all people are created equal.
We hoped to highlight many of the dangers to our democracy at our rally, and the day included speeches about gerrymandering and foreign election interference; the decline of civics education in America; the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College; and the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey.
As much as Hongkongers look to America’s past example for hope and guidance as they march against the Chinese regime, we should look to Hong Kong as we protest for our democracy. We cannot take our freedom for granted any longer.
We also wanted to focus people on concrete steps they could take to get involved to address these dangers, so we connected them to Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan group dedicated to ending gerrymandering, among other things.
And, of course, we stressed the importance of sustained, peaceful protest as a mechanism to holding power accountable. What we have seen in Hong Kong over these last four or five months should inspire us all to action. Millions of Hongkongers have poured into the street, singing our national anthem, waving our flag and peacefully protesting for what little self-rule and democracy that they have.
Indeed, as much as Hongkongers look to America’s past example for hope and guidance as they march against the Chinese regime, we should look to Hong Kong as we protest for our democracy. We cannot take our freedom for granted any longer.
The attendance that Saturday was between 150 and 200 people. It was a solid turnout given that we only had a couple weeks to plan and organize the event. We want to keep the momentum going. If you would like to join us for future rallies or marches in Philadelphia, follow us on Facebook or email us.
Both of us are relatively new to Philadelphia. We moved here for our spouses’ careers. And we’re still getting to know the city. But we’re obviously aware of Philly’s rich history. Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy and the former capital of the United States. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and James Madison wrote the Constitution right here in Philadelphia—in a building that we could see from our rally last month.
Next time we hold a march or rally for democracy, we want to see thousands, not hundreds. So please join us.
Stefanie Delaney is a mother of two who relocated to Philadelphia so that her husband could receive his PhD in Education. She currently works at the Haverford College Bookstore.
Daniel Miller is a lawyer, activist, and writer in Philadelphia. After the 2016 election, he started a civics education group called The Society for Constitutional Protection as a way of fighting the rise of authoritarianism in America. He recently moved to Philadelphia with his wife, a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania.Photo courtesy Daniel Miller