Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ bill on reforming Philadelphia stop-and-go stores has been winding its way through City Council the last couple weeks, and getting plenty of pushback. Several store owners spoke out against the proposed legislation at a hearing. Somebody dumped piles of Chinese food on a Council staffer’s car.
As the bill comes up for a vote today, attention has spread well beyond Philly. Bass has become a target of the alt-right.
The bill aims to clarify the kind of license beer delis need to operate. In short: Pennsylvania law requires a set amount of seating for liquor licenses. Many stop-and-go stores — a catch-all term for small convenience or corner stores that sell booze — don’t meet the minimum seating requirement, so are in violation. The law also requires them to have public bathrooms, and no barrier separating staff and customers. That’s where things get heated.
Conservative and alt-right websites like Breitbart and ZeroHedge, and personalities like Mike Cernovich have picked up on — and mostly critiqued — this Philly-specific bill. Many of them have described Bass as saying the bulletproof barriers in these stores should be banned because they are racist — a word Bass hasn’t used. She has referred to serving food through the windows only in certain neighborhoods as an “indignity.”
“I saw it. I never said that,” Bass said of calling the windows racist. “And the first thing about it is I could care less what these people think. They don’t vote for me. They don’t live in my district. They’re not from these communities. They’re not plagued by stop-and-gos.”
Bass was on Radio Times Wednesday morning defending the bill and the need to remove the bulletproof windows.
Bass and supporters of the bill say the glass doesn’t create a welcoming feel for customers, and the councilwoman has likened the environment to a prison. Beer deli owners say the bulletproof glass is a necessary safety measure.
The far-right’s attention began with a Breitbart article that was shared 15,000 times last week.
Cernovich went further. The Twitter personality, who considers himself part of the “new right” and started a website that stresses male empowerment, posted a video to Facebook with the caption, “Philly Democrats Approve Bill Banning Shops From Using ‘Racist’ Bulletproof Glass In Majority-Black Neighborhoods.” The video has accumulated 1.7 million views and counting, as well as tens of thousands of shares and comments.
Cernovich did not respond to a request for comment. The Conservative Tribune also ran a story on Bass with the headline, “Big City Dem Wants Bulletproof Glass Banned for Being Racist.” ZeroHedge’s headline was “Plexiglass is racist in Philadelphia.”
Snopes has debunked the claim that Bass called the windows racist.
Bass’ bill is up for a vote today in Council. The portion of the bill regarding the bulletproof glass barriers wouldn’t be decided by L&I until 2021, if the bill is passed.