A show of force and unity will take place in Philadelphia April 29 with the message, “No Arena in the Heart of Our City.” Marching from Chinatown to the much-criticized proposed site of a new basketball arena and then on to City Hall, Chinatown residents and allies will be telling the City Council and the mayor that the people are united in opposing the blatant land grab by billionaire developers.
In the words of the Save Chinatown Coalition: “The event will be a demonstration of joy, creativity and the power of connecting across communities. It will be a demonstration of fierce resistance to those who seek to tear apart communities and disrupt and distort the Heart of our City in their boundless drive for profits.”
The main organizations protesting against the construction of a new $1.3 billion Philadelphia 76ers arena on the southern edge of Chinatown include Save Chinatown Coalition, Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena, No Arena Solidarity (NACS), Students for the Preservation of Chinatown, RICE (Restaurant Industry for Chinatown’s Existence), POWER Interfaith and No Arena Art Hive.
Chinatown legacy of struggle to exist
Chinatowns across the country have been culturally destroyed or physically demolished by the imposition of sports stadiums, arenas or casinos, like in Seattle and St. Louis. The Capital One arena was built next to Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. All the Chinese-owned businesses and residents were displaced or replaced by large chain businesses like Starbucks, with Chinese signs translating their names. Even those businesses are struggling to survive, because no one wants to live next to an arena.
Philadelphia’s Chinatown was established in 1871 by workers who had fled anti-Chinese sentiment in the Western states and relocated East to form small “bachelor societies” in many cities. After World War II, liberalized immigration policies toward the Chinese transformed Chinatown into a family-oriented community. Churches, businesses, social and cultural organizations were established to improve neighborhood life, preserve Chinese culture and provide services to growing numbers of immigrants.
Residents have organized against past attempts to displace Chinatown, including the Interstate 676 Vine Street Expressway (which opened in 1991) and the Pennsylvania Convention Center (opened in 1993), and other projects that were successfully stopped, such as a proposed baseball stadium in 2000 and a casino in 2008.
Stop for-profit developments that displace communities of color
Chinatown, like other communities of color, are under attack across the U.S. by predatory developers. The current attempt to displace Chinatown is led by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, two New York finance billionaires who own the local NBA team. Another arena developer is David Adelman, billionaire owner of Campus Apartments, who has been trying to displace Black and Brown low-income residents at UC Townhomes for two years.
The April 29 march and rally starts at 10th and Vine Sstreets, marching from Chinatown to City Hall to show Philadelphia City Council that our city is not for sale! In the words of the Save Chinatown Coalition: “Our communities are united. We don’t need or want corporate-designed billionaire-driven predatory development in Philadelphia. Our neighborhoods need investment that is driven by the needs of the people who call it home. We need investment that builds community and connections — instead of tearing them apart.”