West Philadelphian Edward Payne, an Army veteran who has been unemployed since 2008, joined Fight for Philly this summer. In August, West Philly organizer Fred Jones knocked on his 52nd Street door asking what Payne’s main concerns with his neighborhood were. “I said, ‘Unemployment, crime, drug addiction, abandoned buildings,’” Payne recalls. Then he got in touch with Jones and began doing unpaid community work with Fight for Philly.
His work came to a head earlier this fall, when he helped facilitate a large meeting in which he and others argued for the American Jobs Act and increasing taxes on corporations. It was Payne’s first public speaking event, and he was prepared. “I went over some stats,” he says, “and saw that 71 of the largest corporations don’t pay any taxes at all. They pay zero. In my book, that’s fraud.”
Fighting for Philly requires commitment and sacrifice. Both were on full display last Thursday as the group organized perhaps the largest, most diverse rally from Dilworth Plaza to the Market Street Bridge to reiterate the call for infrastructure jobs. “This bridge is a symbol of what’s going on in this country,” said a man named Dennis, sitting cross-legged on the bridge, arms linked with the man next to him. “This bridge has the same conditions as the bridge that crumbled in Minnesota [in 2007].”
He and 23 others, including Rivera, were arrested, taken to police headquarters and charged with a misdemeanor.
Payne, later interviewed by NBC10, called them and others arrested “brave.”
“Both the military and the Fight for Philly is about sharing your strengths, standing up for what you believe in,” he says. “The feeling that you’re doing something for your country and community.”
For more information on Fight for Philly, visit fightforphilly.org.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom