Reclaim Philadelphia first grabbed local headlines back in July, 2016, leading up to the Democratic National Convention. Formed by former Sanders staffers and volunteers, the group staged several high-profile direct actions geared toward getting the DNC Host Committee to reveal its donor list, thereby exposing any conflicts of interest. They demonstrated in front of the homes of Host Committee leaders and staged a vocal rally in Center City.
More recently, Reclaim Philadelphia held community organizing meetings throughout the city in December, and attracted consistently high turnouts. If you want to get a handle on the surge of protest following the election, Reclaim Philadelphia is one of the first places to look. Lev Hirschhorn, the lead organizer, met me to talk more about Reclaim’s goals and what lies ahead.
“We are a power organization,” Hirschhorn said, “and the problem of concentrated power in this city and this country is such that we can’t pass policies supported by majorities of people.” He went on to describe the explicit goal of Reclaim as building and retaking power with three core tactics: electoral politics, issue campaigns, and direct action.
The organization has endorsed Keith Ellison as the new head of the DNC, and has sent letters to all six voting members of the Southeast Pennsylvania caucus of the Democratic State Committee asking them to join in this endorsement. “We’re looking for a change in the party,” Hirschhorn said. In addition, the group has been signing up representatives from each city neighborhood to work on new task forces dedicated to education; criminal justice; banking and finance; climate justice; and workers’ rights.
Reclaim Philadelphia, like Neighborhood Networks, its sister organization and fiscal sponsor, functions in “neighborhood clusters” throughout the city: the Northeast; West Philadelphia; Center City; North Philadelphia; and two groups in South Philadelphia — east and west of Broad Street. (Neighborhood Networks covers the Northwest, based on its long-term presence and well-developed organization there.) They are “just shy of 200 dues-paying members,” Hirschhorn told me, with a significantly larger number of people on their mailing lists and loosely connected via Facebook. The demographic “is on the younger side,” with the majority under 35.
Looking ahead, Hirschhorn said that “we’ve been keeping an eye on the DA race this May, although we have no endorsement yet.” Then comes 2018, with the Philadelphia city ward elections and 3200 ward committee member positions “up for grabs.” Reclaim Philadelphia wants to get its members running for committee members.
In the interim, the group plans a series of meetings in late January. People looking to volunteer can do so on the Reclaim Philadelphia website, and can join in the various neighborhood-based task forces.