Voices | Nov. 19-26

Reactions, rants and other random musings from you, our readers. Send yours to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com.

Dining Hall
More restaurants throughout the city are starting to look like this due to COVID-19 restrictions. Thoughts on it? Send to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com

Mayor Kenney’s unconstitutional COVID restrictions

Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s recently imposed COVID restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, schools and businesses in Philadelphia are not only ultra-vires, as the mayor and city council lack the legal authority to enact such draconian restrictions, but are explicitly and unquestionably unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania and U.S. constitutions. 

As recently held by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in County of Butler, et al. v. Wolf, et al. in relation to Gov. Wolf’s regulations on indoor and outdoor gatherings, schools and businesses, these types of restrictions violate the First Amendment, as well as due process and equal protections as provided for by the 14th Amendment. In fact, anyone, who cares in the slightest about his/her inalienable and inviolate rights, would be horrified to learn, as detailed in the Butler decision, of the completely arbitrary and capricious manner in which these regulations were imposed – not only was there an absolute lack of scientific data, but it reflects a governor who simply implemented whatever was proposed by a group, unknown by the governor, and the members of which lacked any medical or scientific training or education. Let that one sink in for a minute…

As an attorney in a law firm that has successfully – in fact, undefeatedly – defended numerous businesses across the commonwealth in relation to the enforcement of these types of ultra-vires and unconstitutional restrictions, unless we stand up to these usurpations of our rights, our “rights” become mere privileges of peasants that may be revoked at will and with impunity. In no better point of fact that the regulations apply to thee (i.e. all of us mere peasants) and not to me (i.e. the ruling class such as the mayor), one need look no further than to Mayor Kenney’s prior restrictions closing restaurants in Philadelphia, while he dined on Aug. 30, without a mask, indoors, in a large and completely occupied restaurant in Maryland. 

While you and I are subjected to these unconstitutional mandates precluding even family gatherings during Thanksgiving, I’m sure Mayor Kenney will be having a no-expenses-spared Thanksgiving with his extended family, without concern of these regulations being enforced against him. Sure is nice, to be King…

Joshua Prince, Esq. | Prince Law Offices, P.C.

Philly needs to change

I love Philly. It’s my home, my town, and in my blood. Despite living and working in Harrisburg, New York City, Denver, Dubai and now in Tulsa, I long for a fundamental sea change in policy to save our town from under-funded pension debt, inefficient departments, and an affordable housing crisis so vast it will likely engulf, segregate and outright  fracture the city into two separate towns. 

I am glad you separated conservative policy and governance from Trumpism (I voted for Biden too). The two are extremely distinct; one is actual policy ideas for governance derived from shared facts and well researched opinions, the other is built  on the lies of a single delusional person.

Erik Louis Soliván, Esquire

Mayor council responsible for police brutality

Re: Philly’s new PW: “All the news that they won’t print,” Nov. 12:

Congrats on your new position! I for one I’m a progressive but I’m excited to hear some alternate points of view. I would really love to see the paper focus on the fact that police brutality in Philadelphia could have been controlled by our mayor for the last three years.

Don’t the police report to the mayor? Couldn’t policies have changed in our police department with some initiative by the mayor? 

The way I see it, the mayor and city council are responsible for the police brutality just as much as the individual officers. They could have changed things years, heck, decades ago. No one is holding them accountable. We’re pointing fingers at them and somebody should.

Here’s the hoping that you do!  Best of luck!

Dan Lieberman | Garnet Valley

The people spoke; Trump should accept it

After voting for Biden along with my family and friends, we still don’t feel secure that our votes will be heeded and that our country can start to be unified again. We wish that Trump and his allies would do the right thing and graciously accept the voice of the people and let Biden do his job. 

A Fairmount resident

True patriots uphold the law

We are witnessing an attempt to subvert our election process through demagoguery and disinformation. 

While we understand that in every election there are winners and losers, never before in our national history have we seen such dishonesty and blatant attempts to deceive in order to overturn the results of an election. 

Now we must ask, at what point do such acts become sedition? Are the actions by the current administration in effect “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority”? As an example, the call by some elected officials in Pennsylvania, all Republicans, to question the certification of our election results for no good reason other than they are unhappy with the results. 

It is with this question that I ask, how do we go about prosecuting these acts of sedition? How do “We The People” file a complaint against them and insist they be prosecuted? Can we also name their enablers? Those who fund them and propagate the false statements that are inciting violence in our nation? 

We must defend our nation. True patriots uphold the law, they don’t incite sedition. And it is time we put a stop to it. 

Lisa Longo | Phoenixville

Philly celebrates suffrage centennial

Seventy-six years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger was born in Philadelphia, reported the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office.  Like most women, she existed without a voice to shape her world.

At a time when females wore movement-restrictive corsets, she was expected to marry, bear children and take care of the home, historian Sandra Lloyd said.

By the 20th century, Ruschenberger became one of 70,000 Pennsylvania suffragists. In 1915, she embarked on her hallmark project: the commissioning of the Justice Bell.

Created as a replica of the Liberty Bell, sans the crack, the 2,000-pound bell became the centerpiece of the 1915 Pennsylvania women’s suffrage campaign. One notable difference: the clapper was chained and could not ring, symbolizing women’s muted voice, Lloyd said.

But on Sept. 25, 1920, in celebration of the 19th Amendment, the Justice Bell clapper was freed and the bell sounded for the first time at Independence Hall, reported the Justice Bell Foundation.  It rang 48 times to celebrate each state that ratified the 19th Amendment

One hundred years later, Philadelphia celebrated the suffrage centennial with a reenactment of the Justice Bell event at Independence Hall. Retelling the suffrage story at the National Constitution Center and through Historic Philadelphia, Inc. is ongoing.

For the Justice Bell celebration on Sept. 25, interpreters played the roles of suffragists Frances Harper, Alice Paul and Dora Lewis.  

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an advocate for equality and suffrage, was a Black female abolitionist living in Philadelphia, reported WomensHistory.org.  

Alice Paul, a young Quaker from New Jersey, moved to Philadelphia to attend Swarthmore College, Lloyd said. She conducted controversial speeches and employed sidewalk chalked messages and non-violent protests in Philadelphia.  

Dora Lewis, an upper-class, well-established Philadelphian, joined Paul and became her confidant and supporter, Lloyd said.   

The story of the journey to the 19th Amendment is currently on display at the National Constitution Center with nearly 100 artifacts from across the country, Sarah Winski, NCC Senior Exhibitions Manager, said.  

Philadelphia, long viewed as the country’s birthplace, is less known for playing a role in the passage of the 19th Amendment, said Elena Popchock, NCC Exhibition Developer.

While Seneca Falls, New York is recognized for commencing the women’s suffrage movement, Philadelphia led the way to the 19th Amendment, 72 years later.  

Local heroes Lucretia Mott, Frances Harper, Katharine Ruschenberger, Dora Lewis and Alice Paul all had connections to, if not roots in, Philadelphia, Popchock said.  

Home to many Quakers, Philadelphia served as a breeding ground for abolitionist and suffrage views.  Quakers believed in the principle of equality.

Tremendous abolitionist activity existed among Quakers in the early 1800s. From that movement, comes the women’s suffrage movement.  

Philadelphia, a hub of Quakers and anti-slavery activity, naturally progressed to the fight for women’s suffrage following the Civil War, she said.  

Lloyd said Lucretia Mott, a Quaker and abolitionist leader in the 1830s, was central to the push for equality.  

In 1866, advocates for anti-slavery and women’s rights joined forces and created the American Equal Rights Association, Popchock said. Mott served as president for Pennsylvania’s AERA and Frances Harper pushed the organization to work for suffrage for both Blacks and women. 

Following the 15th Amendment, granting Black men voting rights, the AERA splintered, Lloyd said.  Some women, notably Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, believed that women should be given that right before Black men.

This tension and racist approach caused the organization to split. But by the 1890s, the groups reunited and the movement blossomed as the Progressive Era began.  

The Progressive Era was a period of great energy, reform movements and expanded educational and societal roles for women, Lloyd said.  

Clothing changes created freedom of movement and increasing opportunities for women, she said. Extreme activism and cataclysmic events like World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic opened additional opportunities.

People looked to leverage the government to improve people’s lives. Suffrage was a part of this, as was Prohibition, Exhibitions Manager Winski said.  

The Pennsylvania’s National American Women’s Suffrage Association pursued conservative tactics to achieve state by state ratification, Lloyd said. By 1915, Pennsylvania still had not granted women the vote.  

Enter the Justice Bell. Ruschenberger created the Justice Bell to bring attention to Pennsylvania’s upcoming state-wide referendum granting women the vote. The bell toured all 67 Pennsylvania counties with suffragists promoting their cause.

The referendum failed but the suffrage momentum surged when Alice Paul entered the scene.  Paul, the final generation of the suffrage movement, lived well beyond the 19th Amendment to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, Popchock said.

She pushed the movement forward and established a new approach to social justice: the peaceful protest, Lloyd said. Paul led a massive suffrage parade the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration and helped organize Philadelphia’s first women’s march, from Rittenhouse Square to Washington Square.  

Paul formed the National Women’s Party in 1916 and used aggressive tactics to bring national attention to the cause.  

Dora Lewis joined Paul as they broke from the NASWA. Very active in Philadelphia, they took their efforts to Washington, D.C. where they picketed the White House, Popchock said. 

Both were sentenced to 60 days in a workhouse where imprisoned suffragists were beaten and force fed during a hunger strike initiated by Paul. This led to a public outcry and changed the public’s view on suffrage for women.

Finally, 72 years after Seneca Falls, suffragists won the right to vote and the clapper on the Justice Bell was unchained, the Justice Bell Foundation reported.  On Sept. 25, 1920, it rang out at Independence Hall.  

The courage and determination of these women was amazing, Popchock said. But by 1920, there were still people left out. The NWP was a huge factor in passing the Amendment, but Black women were excluded. The struggle continued after 1920.

Megan Graham, in character as Alice Paul, said, “We’re not done yet. I actually wrote the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m hoping to pass that in Congress soon. We must continue the fight.”

Beth Strauss, MS, BSN, RN, Journalism Graduate Student, Harvard University, School of Extension Studies