Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney vowed to stand up against hate crimes — but said he can’t do it alone and asked Philadelphians to “call out bigotry” when they see it.
The first-term mayor spoke for less than five minutes Monday night during a short speech addressing a recent spate of racism and hate crimes that have been perpetuated in Philadelphia and across the country since Donald Trump won the presidential election.
“I know right now that many Philadelphians are feeling anxious, angry, afraid and even hopeless,” Kenney said. “Others feel emboldened by hateful rhetoric to act out in destructive ways… But, if we allow any of these feelings to guide us to violent or hateful actions, then we are no better than what we claim to oppose.”
Kenney also said after his speech that he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by some of Trump’s public comments since the election and said “I think sometimes that office will moderate you.”
Here in Philadelphia since the election, black freshmen at Penn — Trump’s alma mater — were added to a GroupMe message titled “Nigger Lynching” and were barraged with racist, largely anonymous comments. The act was traced to three people in Oklahoma, and Penn officials say they don’t believe anyone at Penn was involved in the group’s creation. Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf and Penn president Amy Gutmann have all strongly condemned the incident.
Additionally, a man told Philadelphia Magazine that he was harassed in South Philadelphia, called gay slurs and was then attacked by a group of men throwing bottles at him. There’s also been a rash of election-related vandalism and graffiti, including a swastika and the word “Trump” on an abandoned storefront and the words “Trump Rules” and “Black Bitch” spray painted on a vehicle.
Kenney vowed to “stand up against hate crimes, violence and anything that threatens our city’s inclusive and diverse practices,” but said he couldn’t go it alone.
“To be clear,” he added, “you should call out bigotry when you see it. You absolutely must. But we should also recognize that you cannot combat hate with more hate.”
The mayor also addressed what have become nightly protests against Trump in Philadelphia. One group, the Equality Coalition, has gone so far as to promise to protest in Philadelphia every night until Trump is inaugurated in January. The mayor welcomed protest, but said more should be done to combat hate in the city.
“Don’t just hold up a sign at a protest. Protest is valuable and important,” he said, adding: “It alone will not strengthen our city in this time of darkness.” He called on Philadelphians to also “step up and become educators, foster parents, rec center volunteers, homeless outreach workers, participants in our Police Service Areas, and all those jobs and volunteer roles that make Philadelphia its best self.”
After the speech wrapped up, Kenney responded to questions about whether or not Philadelphia will remain a sanctuary city as Trump has said he will — on his first day in office — strip all federal funding from cities that don’t comply with federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants. Kenney said he won’t speculate on what could happen in January.
“I’m not going to speculate between now and January 20,” he said. “Some of [Trump’s] comments recently have been somewhat walking back some of the stuff that happened in the campaign, so hopefully thats a good sign.”