PW sits down with the human-rights activist looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the 13th District.
In recent years, Democrats have seemed scared of getting on board with what the president wants to do, and what quote-unquote liberals want to do, as well. Why do you think that has happened, especially on the Affordable Care Act?
Until the Occupy movement, Democrats, especially centrist corporatist Democrats, were more than happy to focus on quote-unquote fiscal responsibility, which really just means austerity. And, even now, Congresswoman Schwartz’s campaign is based upon fiscal responsibility. We’re past that. Democrats should focus their attention on income equality, which is where it belongs.
It seems like most people weren’t talking about income inequality before Occupy.
They absolutely were not. Especially not in Washington.
There’s been some bad publicity around the Occupy movement. For instance, this week, a splinter Occupy group in Oakland was photographed burning an American flag (which is protected under the First Amendment). How are you prepared to combat those sorts of smears assuming they come your way during this election?
The establishment considers Occupy a dangerous movement because it threatens their power. And they will do everything they can to marginalize and undermine the movement, including sending provocateurs and agents into the movement. So I don’t know, when people commit acts of violence or property destruction, who they are or who they represent. I know Occupy makes their decisions using a modified consensus process and only the decisions made in the General Assembly, which meets in Philadelphia three times a week, can actually be said to be Occupy Philadelphia actions or decisions and that’s— anyone can claim they are Occupy, but unless it goes through the General Assembly, whatever they’re saying, they’re speaking for themselves.
Assuming you do win, do you expect other Occupiers in the movement to follow your lead?
Yeah. There are already other Occupiers running for office, even running for Congress. And I do expect more will step forward, and I hope they do.
I was reading on your Wikipedia page that you once went on a 12-day hunger strike to raise awareness for Sudan’s Darfur conflict. First off, is that true?
Yes, and I also went on another fast in solidarity with the nonviolent resistance in Honduras. And that was for 15 days.
What level of foreign policy, if you want to call it expertise, knowledge or whatever, would you bring to this seat that Allyson Schwartz perhaps does not have?
I got my degree in Foreign Service, from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. I studied under Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the U.N., and under Madeline Albright, who of course was secretary of state. I’ve been engaged on foreign policy issues since I was 12 years old and my family had two Bosnian refugees living with us during the war.
Allyson Schwartz is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the nomination for Senate against Pat Toomey in 2016. And like you said before, she has the ability to raise a ton of cash. How are you going to realistically compete with all that cash, especially since you’re not accepting corporate donations?
I’ve already received a donation from as far away as Alaska. I’m already receiving support from free-thinking individuals all across this country. I think that’s the way—that’s the only way, to combat someone who has the ability to raise so much money from corporations and from wealthy friends. I have grassroots energy behind my campaign. I have volunteers who stepped forward to carry my petitions and folks who don’t live in the district who want to come in and knock on doors. I know once people understand Congresswoman Schwartz’s true record, and once they understand I am a hardworking, serious, passionate individual who is well-prepared to be a United States congressman, I will win.