March for a People's Budget Reportback

It's been an exciting few months for the campaign to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania. We want to fill you in on our recent 113-mile march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, and to let you know what's up next for DPA!

On May 25th, the "March for a People's Budget: Stop Prison Expansion Now!" kicked off in Philadelphia. We had a great turnout, powerful speakers, and beautiful weather as we bid farewell to Philly and hit the road. As we moved through West Philly, we were joined by some young people who took a turn on our bullhorn: "Come walk a block with us!" we all chanted. "Stop Locking Up our Youth!" And as we crossed City Avenue into Lower Merion, someone called the cops on us - but we would not be stopped!

Here is a video of the kick-off rally.

Over the next ten days, in sunshine, pouring rain, and sweltering heat, we made our way across the state. And everywhere we went, we met people who were impacted by Pennsylvania's broken budget priorities. We met teachers and parents devastated by education funding cuts. We met Pennsylvanians who had recently come home from prison. We met family members with loved ones locked up across the state. Our journey made it very clear that mass incarceration is a statewide disaster -- affecting communities of all sizes, in urban, rural, and suburbans areas. As DPA member Diane Foglizzo and Philadelphia teacher Anissa Weinraub wrote in their recent Daily News Op-ed, "we saw firsthand that Philadelphia is not the only place in the commonwealth suffering widespread damage due to the irresponsible choices of policymakers in Harrisburg."
Check out this footage taken along the march route:

Along the way, our marchers made their voices heard: in the streets, in the press, and in our own media. We posted powerful statements from our marchers, including Alisha Alexander of the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, Malissa Gamble of The Time Is Now to Make a Change, and Philly public school teacher Fatimah Islam-Hernandez. The march made the cover of Al Dia and was covered by the Philly Metro, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, WHYY and WITF, among many other news outlets. Last month, we teamed up with our allies at Californians United for a Responsible Budget to publish a piece on Truth-Out. Our march drew national attention and words of support from individuals like Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Michelle Alexander. For a complete roundup of media coverage, check out the press section of our website here.  

Decarcerate PA, DreamActivist Pennsyvania, and others rally on the steps of the Norristown Courthouse.

We held events all along our route -- including a rally in Norristown with DreamActivist Pennsylvania and local immigration justice activists; community meetings in Haverford, Pottstown, and Harrisburg; a protest in Collegeville near the Phoenix I and II prison construction site; and a panel discussion with activists and academics at Hopewell Mennonite Church in Reading. Every step of the way, we shook hands, passed out fliers, listened and learned. Thousands upon thousands of drivers and pedestrians saw us, our bright yellow construction vests, and our "STOP Prison Expansion" signs as we made our way through cornfields and past corner stores, over abandoned bridges and under highway overpasses -- and then, finally, up the capitol steps. Our rally in Harrisburg on June 3rd featured the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Civil Rights Movement veteran Jesse Epps, State Representatives Vanessa Lowery Brown and Ron Waters, and of course many of our tired and footsore, but invigorated, marchers. (Including the one and only G-Law, who marched 113 miles in shackles and chains to make his statement against mass incarceration!) Check out this fantastic slideshow of the Harrisburg rally, from the Patriot-News. And after the rally, we still had to knock on the door of every state legislator to let them know why we'd walked all that way and to deliver our list of demands for a decarcerated Pennsylvania!
So, what's next? We are working to keep the march momentum going and to continue the work of building a state-wide network of activists and community members dedicated to ending mass incarceration. Stay tuned for an exciting social media campaign this fall featuring the beautiful and visionary "Instead of Prisons" flags created during our march, as well as for community meetings in Reading and Harrisburg. We've also launched a newsletter for circulation within PA's prison system, and we are hatching plans to strengthen and deepen our roots in Philadelphia.
We are keeping up the pressure on Harrisburg, too! And we are continuing to ask all of you to call your legislators and demand that the new prison construction be stopped and the money reinvested in our schools and communities. You can look up contact information for your legislators by clicking here.  
We thank you for your support, and we look forward to marching onwards with you as we strive to build a stronger, safer Pennsylvania.
In love and struggle,
Decarcerate PA