Students for Preservation of Chinatown challenge developers

By Cindy Lou

Students for the Preservation of Chinatown began a demonstration on March 3, at 4041 Walnut St., in Philadelphia, the headquarters of Campus Apartments. The nationwide organization is headed by David Adelman — one of the primary players in the proposed sale of the Peoples (UC) Townhomes and one of the developers of the proposed ’76ers Arena, which threatens Chinatown.

SPOC organizers Kaia Chau (left) speaking, and Taryn Flaherty (right). Credit: Noel Chacko

Mel Hairston, a Townhomes resident who has been fighting eviction for over a year, gave a spirited talk about greedy developers who are barging into well-settled areas of West Philadelphia and trying to take over. He connected these actions to the sickness and rampant greed of capitalism.

The crowd marched down Walnut Street to where the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees was holding a breakfast meeting at the Inn at Penn. They found the alleged open meeting closed off, entry forbidden, but a few students from the Chinatown organization managed to get in. This meeting included Adelman, David Blitzer and Josh Harris, who are members of various UPenn boards and primary principals behind the arena proposal.

Those unable to get into the meeting kept up chants outside, demanding the removal of Adelman, Blitzer and Harris from appointed positions on the UPenn Board of Trustees, the Wharton School and Penn Medicine. The students also demanded the university divest from corporations involved in financing the arena and issue a statement in support of the Chinatown community’s stance against the arena.

Demonstrators outside took over a section of Walnut Street, where students spoke, clarifying the Chinatown situation. Many in the crowd held enlarged pictures of Adelman, Blitzer and Harris with the word “SHAME” in large letters above their heads. Students able to get into the meeting said they could hear the loud chanting from outside.

Rashida Alexander from the Townhomes also spoke, emphasizing how both the No Arena in Chinatown and the Save the Townhomes activists are fighting the same players. “This is the same struggle, same fight,” Alexander said.

After the meeting concluded, demonstrators moved to cover all the building exits. As these developer moguls were being picked up by their chauffeurs driving black SUVs, they were given a loud, raucous send-off!

For over the past week and half, students at nearby Drexel University have also been protesting Adelman’s spot on that university’s Real Estate Advisory Board. Students with Drexel Community for Justice (DCJ) staged a sit-in at the university’s main building to demand a $10 million pledge to the UC Townhomes impacted by development plans, as well as the removal of Adelman from the university’s board.

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