A mass of heavy-hearted local citizens, including some Eastern students, dressed in black, gathered outside of Broadstreet Ministry, a church in Philadelphia, and mourned a terrible and unjust death: the death of justice.
As the protesters marched toward Center City on Feb. 3 carrying candles, banners and signs shaped like skulls, people walking past stared at the wooden coffin decorated with red and black roses.
However, the coffin that drew so much attention did not contain a body, and the cardboard headstones were painted not with the names of people but with inscriptions mourning the “death” of Supplemental Security Income in Pennsylvania.
On Jan.16, the Department of Public Welfare decided to cut $5.30 from the State Supplemental Payments that go to the disabled, elderly and poor.
This cut comes from the meager maximum payment of $674 per month, which is already well below the poverty line.
While this cut would not mean a lot to most people, for those depending on SSP, this could mean having to decide between deodorant and bread.
“This hit everyone by surprise,” said Andre Cureton, a peer advocate from Bethesda Project in Philadelphia. “My clients came up to me like, ‘What does this mean?'”
He shook his head as he rubbed his cold hands together.
“I have clients right now who can’t even get their medication,” Cureton said.
This is the main reason they marched: to show Pennsylvania representatives that the legislation that was quietly made had not gone unnoticed.
The crowd, led by a flock of men and women in wheelchairs and one blindfolded woman carrying the heavy scales of justice on her back, finally reached City Hall.
Local religious leaders, state advocates and people affected by the cut stepped up to the podium to educate the masses and share personal stories to convince everyone to make a difference.
Even though one picket sign read, “Justice is dead,” Reverend Bill Golderer of Broadstreet Ministry made it clear that this will not be the end when he boomed from the podium:
“Call your legislator, call your governor, call them and say, ‘As long as you’re able to make the way clear for profit and possibility for other people, make the way clear for possibilities for people who are trying to get by, for people who are trying to make a way, for people who are trying to become a part of the common wealth of Pennsylvania.'”