This is our summer of civic embarrassment. We have leaders whose cringeworthy spinelessness encourages self-righteous protesters to throw public tantrums and stop public business.
Where to start? How about the June state Senate hearing in City Hall on the impact of the soda tax on business? That was derailed when proponents of the tax, tykes in tow, blowing horns and whistles, stopped the show. Legislators surrendered the room to the mob. No consequences for the disruption.
It has happened before, memorably in 2013, when union members filled the grand City Council chamber, raised hell, and prevented Mayor Michael Nutter from delivering his annual budget address. No consequences.
Only a fool would be surprised that it happened again this week. On Monday in the gilded Mayor’s Reception Room, two — count ’em, two — men commandeered a news conference that had been called to announce the city’s plan to curtail litter and trash. The news conference itself was trashed. No consequences.
The disrupters were Asa Khalif and Isaac Gardner, social justice activists. They were there on behalf of David Jones, a dirt-bike rider fatally shot by a Philadelphia police officer June 8.
That’s indoor disruption fun. Let’s take a look at the great outdoors.
Two Sundays ago, outside a rec center in Germantown, several hundred teens showed up, loud and rowdy and blocking the streets, some pelting cops with bottles.
Cops passively held their positions and arrested no one. No consequences.
Since undiscouraged behavior often is repeated, it was — Sunday night, except this time two kids were arrested for allegedly throwing rocks at police cars. Small consequences.
Back to the scuttled Monday ban-the-trash news conference.
City Council President Darrell Clarke was at the lectern when Khalif and Gardner started screaming about justice, dropping the F-bomb and the MF-bomb, and actually questioning Clarke’s blackness. Clarke responded that he grew up in North Philly.
To Clarke’s right, Mayor Kenney was twisting in a throne-like chair, his chin resting on his right palm, his face expressionless. Here’s a pet Kenney project announcement being torpedoed, and what does he do? Nothing.
After 10 minutes of being harangued, city leaders, tails between their legs, crawled out of the room, handing Khalif what he called a victory.
“We got some transparency on this case, which was extremely important,” Khalif told me Tuesday. He said Clarke revealed the Jones case had been moved from the District Attorney’s Office to the state Attorney General’s Office. “The public didn’t know about that.”
This is part of an ongoing campaign, with Khalif promising to “shut down” any meeting he chooses. His rationale is that City Hall is the “people’s house” and that he has a right to speak and protest peacefully.
That is unquestioned, but City Hall is everyone’s house, and he has no right to stop business. That’s not free speech — it’s anarchy.
What will it take for our “leaders” to grow spines, demand civility, and enforce the quaint notion that free speech is a two-way street?