Before Germantown High School becomes a construction site, the massive school property will host a protest demanding immediate defunding for the Philadelphia Police Department.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, the Black Philly Radical Collective, Philly for REAL Justice, and Black Lives Matter Philly will organize a protest from 2 to 3 p.m. at the high school property. They are calling it ‘Invest in Communities Not Cops! Authentic Police Defunding Now’. Megan Malachi of Black Philly Radical Collective said the goal is to draw attention to the differences in the amount of funding for police in contrast with the funding received by the school district.
“We want the police to be defunded but we also want the money that’s being pulled from the police budget to go into finally investing in our schools in any possible way,” Malachai said.
The groups decided to host the event at Germantown High because the public school was closed in 2013, along with 23 other district schools. The groups said the lack of investment in city education, viewed against funding for police departments, is troubling. For Malachi, the school symbolizes the systemic “disinvestment” in education
“I felt like that was just such an egregious thing to do to the community to literally force public school students to leave their neighborhood to be educated,” Malachi said.
The school is now owned by Jack Azran and Eli Alon. According to WHYY’s PlanPhilly, they intend to turn the site into a $50 million multipurpose development, a move that goes against community concerns. Patrick Jones, a member of Germantown Community Alliance, described the move as an “overt” attempt to leave the community out of the redevelopment plans in a letter posted on their Facebook page on June 26.
Although the protest won’t save the school that has been closed since 2014, organizers hope it will highlight the need for funding in the public education system, by utilizing funds traditionally allocated to police. In response to protests against police brutality against Black people, many cities have felt the pressure to make changes in how police departments are funded.
Last month the city announced a $33 million decrease to the Philadelphia Police Department.
The $33 million decrease was for proposed funding for the upcoming fiscal year. Of that proposed $33 million, $14 million will now go to another section of the city budget. And the proposed $19 million increase will be cancelled.
The Black Philly Radical Collective’s group’s Facebook event post described the decrease as a “ploy” for the community. Malachi said they wanted an immediate defunding for the police department, not the cancellations of proposed funds.
“So it didn’t actually remove any funds from the actual police department’s budget,” YahNé Ndgo, a second member of the Collective, said. “If you’re not actually taking funds from the department, then you’re not rerouting funds to the schools or to anything else.”
As a result, a list of demands will accompany Saturday’s rally.
- An immediate reduction in the police budget by 20%.
- The originally proposed $14 million police budget increase be augmented by $11 million and redistributed to Philadelphia School District budget to remove environmental hazards from schools; asbestos and lead paint, which is estimated to cost $25 million per year, according to the Collective.
“Shift those funds into areas that have true community benefit,” Ndgo said. “Beginning with just the basics of ensuring that schools aren’t a toxic and environmentally hazardous place for children when they have to spend the majority of their days in those buildings.
Saturday’s protest will include a rally and special speakers directly affected by the high school closure and new development. The organizations urge everyone in attendance to wear masks and bring water.