Green City Journal hosted a forum on November 8th for the closing night of Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association’s (PIFVA) expo “Politics As Usual?”, which highlighted political documentaries made by local filmmakers. I moderated a forum with local activists: Jerry Silberman, sustainability advocate and negotiator for PASNAP , Philly for Change’s David Sternberg, Casino Free Philadelphia’s Jethro Heiko, who is also Director of Organizing for Iraq Veterans Against the War , Filmmaker and Evolve Strategies founder Rob Stuart, and Winter Soldier editor Gail Lloyd. The evening’s focus was on grassroots local movements with attention to tactics and strategies used in various campaigns.
The program started with screenings of Casino Free Philadelphia video reports produced by Ed Goppelt of Hallwatch.org , which chronicled the struggle of Philadelphians to place a referendum on the ballot to vote about the placement of two state-mandated casinos within the city. The referendum was a result of the work of hundreds of volunteers collecting signatures and petitioning City Council members to support the initiative. City Council voted unanimously to support the referendum, which would create a minimal buffer zone between neighborhoods and casinos of 1500′, only to see the referendum stripped from the ballot by the State Supreme Court in a challenge brought by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), a state agency, and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The videos also highlighted some of the creative direct action strategies Casino Free Philadelphia used to bring attention to the issues, including a “Citizen Search and Seizure” at PGCB (located within a mall in Harrisburg), where several participants were arrested. Casino Free Philadelphia’s campaign is ongoing.
Also screened was Rob Stuart’s Free Schuylkill River Park which documented the grassroots campaign to provide citizens public access to the Schuylkill River. It was an early use of internet networking to grow a constituency. Cameras kept track of railroad operator CSX actions to prevent access, which were made available online, and organizers asked neighbors to sign online petitions while visiting the park. It was a great example of a successful campaign that involved both an “inside” and “outside” strategy. The “outside” strategy focused on getting the word out about the issue and building a constituency, while the “inside” strategy was to work with local politicians to hold public hearings about the contracts between CSX and the city.
“Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” (warning: graphic violence) , directed by Jason Washburn and Steve Morillo for IVAW, produced by Amadee Braxton, edited by Gail Lloyd and shot by Serena Reed for IVAW, rounded out the screenings. Iraq Veterans Against the War talked to soldiers who went to Iraq believing in the mission they were told but found a different truth once there. Gail Lloyd joined our post-screening discussion.
Here’s an excerpt from the discussion that followed the screenings where panelists discuss what they expect in the first 100 days of an Obama presidency. Participants include Jerry Silberman, from PASNAP and local sustainability movements, David Sternberg, Chairperson for Philly for Change, Jethro Heiko, Director for Organizing Iraq Veterans Against the War and co-founder of Casino-Free Philadelphia, Rob Stuart, filmmaker and founder of Evolve Strategies and Evolve Foundation, Gail Lloyd, editor of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan and group moderator Caryn Hunt of www.GreenCityJournal.com. Video shot by Debbie Rudman.