South Philly’s Bern identity

Bernie Sanders’ campaign opened an East Passyunk Avenue office, and Phish drummer John Fishman visited two South Philly businesses

There’s a pretty big elec­tion com­ing up – the 45th Pres­id­ent of the United States of Amer­ica will be de­cided on Nov. 8. In the mean­time, state primar­ies have whipped just about every Amer­ic­an in­to a com­bin­a­tion of pan­ic and civic en­gage­ment.

  • Phish drummer, John Fishman, posed with Sweettooth staff and manager, Kim Price, Monday afternoon in Queen Village. Staff Photo by Bill Chenevert

  • Signs encouraging East Passyunk Avenue passers-by to volunteer and register to vote now fill the windows of 1916-1918 E. Passyunk Ave. Staff Photo by Bill Chenevert

There’s a pretty big elec­tion com­ing up – the 45th Pres­id­ent of the United States of Amer­ica will be de­cided on Nov. 8. In the mean­time, state primar­ies have whipped just about every Amer­ic­an in­to a com­bin­a­tion of pan­ic and civic en­gage­ment. With Pennsylvania state primar­ies on April 26 for the Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates, the two parties’ lead­ing fig­ures are start­ing to make their way to Pennsylvania and Phil­adelphia.

Of course, this is just a taste of what’s to come this sum­mer, when the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion ar­rives in Phil­adelphia Ju­ly 25-28 at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter, 3601 S. Broad St.

On Sat­urday, the Bernie Sanders cam­paign cel­eb­rated the open­ing of an­oth­er Phil­adelphia of­fice, this one at 1916-1918 E. Passy­unk Ave. The oth­ers are in Cen­ter City, NE Philly, North Philly and West Philly. On back­ground, a rep­res­ent­at­ive from the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign said it has of­fices set up in Scrant­on, Pitt­s­burgh and Har­ris­burg with more to come in the near fu­ture.

With two mur­als in his hon­or, one in Queen Vil­lage at Sweettooth, 630 S. Fourth St., and an­oth­er at the corner of 22nd and Cath­ar­ine streets in Gradu­ate Hos­pit­al, it seems South Philly is, as they say, Feel­ing the Bern. As far as this pub­lic­a­tion can tell, there aren’t any oth­er can­did­ates, from either party, who have a Phil­adelphia of­fice (let alone a South Philly space).

On Monday, John Fish­man, the drum­mer for Phish, vis­ited Sweettooth be­fore a Sanders cam­paign event in North­ern Liber­ties at North Bowl. Own­er Sam Green­blatt and man­ager Kim Price took over the space about a year ago and, as Price put it, “we wanted to put some light back in­to it.”

The candy shop, which at­tracts South Street tour­ists, loc­als of every age and demo­graph­ic, and now Sanders sup­port­ers painted over a mur­al that had ex­is­ted on the wall for five years in Decem­ber.

“We wanted to change it, and we wanted to do Bernie Sanders,” Price, a Fishtown res­id­ent, said. “We had just heard about him and had seen his speeches on­line and be­lieved everything he says.”

The Brooks Bell-ex­ecuted mur­al ref­er­ences the peace sym­bols of the 1992 Bar­celona Olympics and the text that reads “Without People You’re Noth­ing” re­calls Clash lead sing­er Joe Strum­mer. Fish­man signed auto­graphs while Sanders cam­paign vo­lun­teers at­temp­ted to re­gister folks to vote. Be­fore head­ing to North Bowl, he posed with the Sweettooth staff in front of Bell’s mur­al.

Sit­ting at a small table on Bain­bridge Street out­side the shop, Penns­port res­id­ent Di­anne May­er said “one of the big things I don’t like is the money that’s spent on our mil­it­ary.” She and her friend sat with their Sanders 2016 signs while gusty winds blew magno­lia petals about. “I’d like to see the tax bur­den spread more evenly,” she went on, “I like his hon­esty and he takes the high road – it’s not about dirty polit­ics with him.”

Dan Creskoff, the own­er of CineMug, 1607 S. Broad St., a caf&ea­cute; and DVD rent­al spot, has hos­ted a couple Demo­crat­ic de­bate view­ing parties and, on Sunday night, wel­comed Fish­man, as well.

“I think he’s bring­ing a lot of ideas that aren’t usu­ally talked about in polit­ics and things that politi­cians don’t usu­ally want to think too much about. I think he’s re­fresh­ing and pas­sion­ate, and I think that res­on­ates with people,” Creskoff, of Broad and Dickin­son streets said, but noted that his shop sees mostly young­er pat­rons. “That new­ness and fresh­ness of Bernie res­on­ates with a lot of young people,” he says, and re­spon­ded as a small busi­ness own­er to cri­ti­cisms of his sup­port for the can­did­ate with “I think it’s im­port­ant and I like his mes­sage, so I think it’s worth push­ing for him.”

Aman­da Mcill­mur­ray is a driv­ing force of Bernie Sanders’ South Philly pres­ence – the res­id­ent of the 2600 block of South Dari­en Street is an of­fi­cial DNC del­eg­ate for Sanders and heads up vo­lun­teer ef­forts at the new East Passy­unk Cross­ing of­fice. She first heard about the can­did­ate last June at a meet­ing of a group called the Demo­crat­ic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica.

One of the group mem­bers had a moth­er who worked for the sen­at­or in Ver­mont, so they had a small jump on his an­nounce­ment to run. They star­ted co­ordin­at­ing ef­forts on the Temple cam­pus and at LOVE Park, and held events like Beers for Bernie.

“I kind of jumped in head­first,” the leg­al of­fice man­ager and Mar­coni West res­id­ent said. “I al­ways thought he would last this long. In the be­gin­ning, it was a lot of op­tim­ism and now it’s a com­bin­a­tion of op­tim­ism and prag­mat­ism. Now he has a chance, he can do this and we can do this with him – it’s changed very quickly.”

Her en­thu­si­asm may be spurred by his primary wins on March 22 (Idaho and Utah) and March 26 (Alaska, Hawaii and Wash­ing­ton). At print, Sanders has ap­prox­im­ately 1,004 del­eg­ates pledged to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 1,243, ex­clud­ing su­per­deleg­ates.

Su­per­deleg­ates, of course, have been the ire of many Sanders’ sup­port­ers prot­est­a­tions – a flu­id vote pledge from es­tab­lished politi­cians and of­fice-hold­ers, many are be­lieved to go to Clin­ton.

“I think the whole su­per­deleg­ate thing is not very well ex­plained, and I think that’s pur­pose­ful be­cause politi­cians be­ne­fit from their popu­lace not know­ing what’s really go­ing on,” Mcill­mur­ray, who be­lieves the su­per­deleg­ate sys­tem be­ne­fits a two-party sys­tem, said.

She said there are already plans in the works if, as a worst-case scen­ario, Sanders seems to win the primary-pledged del­eg­ates but not the nom­in­a­tion come Ju­ly, there will be protests.

“If [Sanders] some­how wins but it’s stolen from him, there’s already marches in the works, but we’re hop­ing for the best case scen­ario,” Mcill­mur­ray ex­plained. “I think the DNC is fo­cused on main­tain­ing the status quo.”

Mean­while, at 22nd and Cath­ar­ine, across from the Gradu­ate Hos­pit­al Ul­timo Cof­fee, 2149 Cath­ar­ine St., Max Glass had an empty prop­erty he owned and de­cided he wanted to take a note from Sweettooth and cre­ate his own Sanders mur­al, which went up earli­er this month. Now, a 67-foot wide by 30-feet tall mur­al, he says, is push­ing the can­did­ate in­to pop­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion sur­round­ing polit­ics.

The young de­veloper, who stud­ied at the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania, be­lieves there’s a “deep me­dia bi­as against this man – we need to be big and vo­cal and un­afraid in sup­port­ing this man for Pres­id­ent. He’s a pop­u­lar can­did­ate and the me­dia would have you be­lieve oth­er­wise.”

Glass ad­mits that an as­pect of paint­ing this huge mur­al on an empty shell is that he is look­ing for­ward to de­mol­ish­ing the empty shell when a prop­er op­er­at­or comes along: “It’s some­what child­ish, I’ve al­ways wanted to have a mur­al on a build­ing pri­or to it be­ing de­mol­ished.” He de­veloped the Ul­timo build­ing and he says his mixed-com­munity neigh­bors thank him be­cause it used to be a drug corner. Now, he says, a corner he’s worked on for years has be­come a hot­bed for polit­ic­al dis­cus­sion.

“People stop and they have a real con­ver­sa­tion about this can­did­ate or Hil­lary or Trump,” Glass said. “Many people walk by and say ‘Who’s that?’ and that’s a huge dis­ad­vant­age for him.”

Con­tact Staff Writer Bill Chenev­ert at bchenev­ert@south­phil­lyre­view.com or ext. 117.


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You can reach at bchenevert@southphillyreview.com.