During Board of Trustees meeting, protesters criticize stadium talks

Students and community members rallied outside Sullivan Hall to voice concerns about a possible on-campus stadium.

Temple and Philadelphia Police guard the front entrance to Sullivan Hall as a protest is held during a Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 8 | Margo Reed TTN

Student activists and community members rallied outside of Sullivan Hall Tuesday afternoon prior to and during a Board of Trustees meeting to demand the board rejects plans to build a $100 million stadium in North Philadelphia.

Temple’s chapter of 15 Now, an organization that advocates for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, organized the protest with plans to rally just before the the Board of Trustees meeting and then attend the meeting, which was a public session.

Zoe Buckwalter, president of Temple’s chapter of 15 Now, said the protest was coordinated in efforts to “emphasize that Temple needs to get its priorities straight.”

“The goal is to show our power to the Board of Trustees and voice our concerns on behalf of students, faculty and the community,” said Buckwalter, a senior elementary education major.

At the rally held prior to the meeting, various speakers took turns addressing the crowd of about 55 people.

Ryan Eckes, an adjunct professor in the English department, spoke about the lack of support the administration showed adjuncts prior to their success in unionization.

“Why do you think they did not want us to have a union?” Eckes said. “Because they do not value education.”

“They are invested in real estate and gentrification,” he added.

Rina Mascitti, a student from the Community College of Philadelphia, represented the Philadelphia chapter of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, a group that works to turn college campuses into spaces of revolution. Mascitti, who plans to transfer to Temple next year, addressed the crowd.

“You can see from the way that Temple disrespects the community that it’s settling, that it’s colonizing,” Mascitti said. “Our colleges and universities are outposts of settler colonialism.”

After about a half hour of speeches from students and community members, the group tried to enter the Board of Trustees meeting, but were barred from both the main entrance and side entrance of Sullivan Hall by stationed police officers.

Charlie Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services, said protesters were stopped from entering only in order to comply with Sullivan Hall’s maximum occupancy rate.

Zoe Buckwalter (center), president of 15NOW, leads a protest during the Board of Trustees Meeting Dec. 8.
Zoe Buckwalter (center), president of 15 NOW, leads a protest during the Board of Trustees Meeting Dec. 8. | Margo Reed TTN

Organizers were later told they could send in five people, but they refused to send in anyone unless all protesters were let in. The protesters then marched down Liacouras Walk to try to access Sullivan Hall from the south side, but were met by more police officers.

Protesters returned to the front of Sullivan Hall, and after hearing pleas from community members, decided to send in Buckwalter and four community members: Olaniyan Adefumi, Kenneth Johnson, Harriet Womack and Lauretta Murphy.

Murphy, who has lived in North Philadelphia for the past 40 years, said she is very concerned about the proposed stadium.

“This is not the place for something like that,” Murphy said. “This is still a resident area. This is still a family area.”

After Murphy and the other four protesters had been let in, the remaining crowd, which had dwindled down to about 30 people, fell quiet.

Mascitti spoke up to encourage the silent protesters.

“Quit asking and start f——– telling,” Mascitti said.

Following this cry, the crowd began to push against the gate and line of police officers blocking the side entrance. Police officers were able to diffuse this physical outburst.

Following the meeting, the five protesters returned outside to relay what had happened.

The meeting was adjourned before any of the five were officially given the floor, Murphy said.

“They didn’t even acknowledge that we were really there, so we still went into what we had to say anyway,” Murphy said. “They never even looked up.”

Buckwalter said the board did not make a decision on the stadium, but is letting mayor-elect Jim Kenney decide.

“It’s still not really a true victory, because it’s just being transferred to another person in power,” Buckwalter said. “It’s not left up to community members or students.”

“It’s not really a victory until a decision is made by us,” she added.

Jenny Roberts can be reached at jennifer.roberts@temple.edu or on Twitter @jennyroberts511.

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