Vice President Mike Pence visit to catholic school sparks protest in West Philadelphia
The Vice President was greeted by West Philadelphia neighbors protesting his stances on the LGBTQ community, immigration, and education.
Vice President Mike Pence visited West Philadelphia on Wednesday, and his presence did not go unnoticed.
LGBTQ people and allies, refugee supporters, and union workers stood outside St. Francis de Sales School, along 47th St, as he gave a speech at an event around school choice.
The causes they stood for were various, but as they chanted “get out of our neighborhood” and “go home,” one thing was clear.
Here is what West Philadelphia wants the Vice President to know.
Ann Farnsworth-Alvear has called West Philly home for 25 years. As soon as she learned about the protest, the history professor at the University of Pennsylvania rushed home to join.
“I can not understand why he is looking to come here to a neighborhood where hate is always rejected,” she said. “I don't want to see Pence in my neighborhood.”
Farnsworth Alvear worries for the message Pence’s visit might send to her neighbors, especially the ones who are members of the immigrant community.
And she is not the only one. Martha -who didn’t want to share her last name, was concerned about the VP’s visit.
She decided to protest in her own way, with a sign that read “refugees welcome” as the crowd chanted “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
It was done, Martha said, so “all marginalized groups” in her community felt supported during the Pence visit.
Like Farnsworth-Alvear, Martha also had a message: “Listen to your conscious and stop hurting people.”
The original idea for this demonstration came from a Facebook event called "Love Thy LGBTQ Neighbor Day." Where organizers invited residents to “clear your schedule,” and show support.
When Amelia Hoovergreen learned of the event she was interested, but it was her three-year-old son who ultimately convinced her.
As the Hoovergreen family discussed Pence’s visit over dinner, “he didn’t understand why people didn’t like Pence.”
“I said ‘well he doesn’t believe that there are families with two mommies. That was all it took. ‘Mommy that’s mean, I wanna go to the protest’,” he responded.
Hoovergreen son doesn’t know any of that, but his willingness to show support for his “queer, trans, black, brown and undocumented neighbors” makes her hopeful for a better future.
During his visit, Pence was joined by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who advocates for "Education Freedom Scholarships."
It’s a $5 billion plan that will allow businesses and individuals to fund tuition for private school students, and in exchange receive 100% federal tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting groups.
Patricia Isakowitz has been living in West Philly for 33 years, only half a block away from St. Francis de Sales.
When she learned of Pence’s visit, she recalled feeling “very scared,” but soon the fear turned into outrage.
“It is very disturbing to have him here supporting the private school instead of the public school,” Isakowitz said.
For her, the campaigning sends the wrong message.
“He is here saying everyone should have the right to choose a school for their kids, but all kids should have the right to a good public education,” said Isakowitz.
As the neighborhood protested, members of the Steamfitters Local 420 union also formed their own group to protest the job loss from the shuttered Philadelphia Energy Solutions.
For some at the neighborhood protest, it seemed like the workers were supporting the current administration.
But United Steelworkers Local 10-1 president Ryan O'callaghan says “it’s not about that.”
“We support people that support us,” says O'callaghan. “If the administration is supporting workers, we are here to show support for that [the refinery reopening].”
What used to be the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery is in the process of being sold to a Chicago-based industrial realty group — a decision the Trump administration has backed.
“A lot of us are unemployed, a lot of families are left without income from that refinery and that’s going to be felt soon,” added O'callaghan.