For immediate release
October 28, 2020
PHILADELPHIA—This morning, Philadelphia’s religious leaders and canvassers with UNITE HERE gathered in Malcolm X Park to remember the life of Walter Wallace, Jr. and call for an end to the dual epidemics of police violence and COVID-19 that have impacted Philly’s Black and brown communities.
“Once again, we see the senseless killing of a black man at the hands of police,” said UNITE HERE Local 634 President and member of the UNITE HERE Black Leadership Group Nicole Hunt, “Walter Wallace Jr. should be alive today, his life mattered. We mourn with his family and our community over his death. Over the past month we have been talking to Philadelphia residents from every area of our city. Systematic racism is a problem in every neighborhood in Philadelphia and across our country. This must stop and we are not going to stop pushing for equality and justice until there is equality and justice for all.”
Philadelphia has a long history of police brutality, and Black and Latinx Philadelphians are three times more likely to know someone has died from COVID-19 than other Philadelphia residents—realities that are well-known by the hundreds of union members who have spent the past weeks door-to-door canvassing in their communities, and who were present in West Philadelphia when Mr. Wallace was killed by the PPD.
With less than one week until Election Day, Pennsylvania is seen as the single most important state to determine the 2020 election and Philadelphia is ground zero for a democratic win. In the largest overall door-to-door canvassing operation in the State of Pennsylvania, over 200 UNITE HERE canvassers—overwhelmingly Black and brown union members—have been knocking on doors six days a week for Joe Biden. Their conversations at the doors encourage Philadelphians to vote for the change they need to see in their communities.
“Yesterday morning, as my team struggled together to find the inspiration and strength to get back out on the doors, I told them ‘think about your family, think about yourself—they’re out here killing us, and it needs to stop,’” said Earlene Bly, a lead canvasser for UNITE HERE’s Take Back 2020 campaign, “When you’re knocking on those doors, think about that and knock on those doors as if your life depended on it, or your son’s life depended on it, because they do. When you knock on those doors, you’re knocking to save a life—and it might just be your own. We’re knocking for change.”
Canvassers were joined by Philadelphia religious leaders, who have noted that the Black church—with its unparalleled reach into Black communities—will play a crucial role in this election.
“We’re not in the park today simply because of what has taken place in the last two days. We’re here because this is a movement,” said the Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Senior Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, “We need people to get out to vote. Had there been a shooting or not we would be here today. I’m here to remind people that this is the most important election of our lives, and people must get engaged, period.”
“The Constitution grants us our right to vote, and this is the most critically-important election of our lifetime. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be here to encourage folks to vote,” said the Rev. Robert Collier, President of the Organization of Black Clergy in Philadelphia, “We’re here to encourage the canvassers, those who put their welfare on the line to go out during this COVID-19 pandemic to go door to door canvassing for the vote. It’s critically important that we engage in the voting process. We’re thankful for this gathering, even in the midst of the shooting of Walter Wallace, and we are taking time to do our civic duty, because the change will only come when we bring about change, and we’re bringing about that change by exercising our right to vote.”
“This is a critically important election, and the UNITE HERE canvassers are going to be knocking doors in some of the communities that are most marginalized here in the city of Philadelphia. We’re proud of them,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER, “We’re always glad to stand with our allies, and I’m proud to support UNITE HERE as they to go out and Take Back 2020.”
UNITE HERE is a labor union that with over 300,000 members working in the North American hospitality industry. UNITE HERE is operating the largest union door-to-door canvassing operation in the United States, which includes the largest overall door-to-door canvassing operation in the State of Pennsylvania.