We just have a serious problem here in the US, we have one political party and that represents corporate America, a candidate for Sheriff in Philadelphia says.
In an exclusive interview with Press TV, Cheri Honkala from Economic Rights Organization and candidate for sheriff in Philadelphia sheds light on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Press TV: Cheri have had a life of many ups and downs. Tell us about your experiences and why you are taking part in this occupation, as you would like to call it.
Honkala: I have formerly been a homeless mother. I know what it is like to almost freeze to death in a wealthy country and I have been working with low income families for the last 25 years and teaching them how to occupy abandon properties and house themselves. I am involved in this movement, because we got to do something, and either we determine our future, our destiny, or the corporations will continue to determine our destiny.
Press TV: You have become a candidate for Philadelphia Sheriff, what would you do if you become a sheriff, especially when you saw the police attitude towards the protesters, I mean since they use an extreme violence, pepper spray and so on?
Honkala: I am considering myself as an occupy candidate, which means I am encouraging the homeowners who are losing their homes to stay in those properties. There is over a million families this coming year, who will lose their homes to the banks. And I am encouraging families to stay in those homes, and I am running for Philadelphia Sheriff, on the platform of zero foreclosures. I don’t buy any of these stuff, there is not enough to go around, that there is budget problem in this country. I refuse to perceive from this notion of scarcity, and politics of scarcity in this country. We live in a wealthy country, we have enough for everybody.
Press TV: You are speaking of encouraging people to stay in their homes. How much your encouragement would help them, actually staying in their homes, where they might be forced out of their homes by the authorities.
Honkala: You know right now that the American people do not have much of a future, if we continue to deny the American citizens the basic necessities of life. When we sleep outside mansions, and we sleep outside filthy rich corporations, there is no reason why even occupy folks in Philadelphia have to remain cold for the winter time, when we have forty thousand abandoned properties in the Philadelphia area. I am encouraging them to begin to occupy these abandoned houses to begin to work with homeless people in this country to begin to house them. We need to begin to get organized, take back the necessities of life.
Press TV: I am sure you have heard it on the news, one of the protesters is in serious condition. The war veteran, Steve Olson, who was strike on the head, he is reportedly going under surgery right now. How obscure are the attitude of the protesters?
Honkala: To get organized in this country is a very scary thing. I had over 200 arrests, several of them felonies, in the last 20 years. And they could have landed me somewhere upwards of 22 years in prisons.
And it is frightening just being homeless in this country; or just organizing a handful of people can land you in a hospital or land you in a prison. But it is important if we want a future for our children, not to be immobilized by fear, and begin to really organize, to meet people in Middle America, involve them in this occupy movement.
Because there are more of us, we are the 99 percenters, we are linked with the people throughout the entire world, we continue to use money to invade other countries, and to use our military to kill poor people on other parts of the world. It is time for us to come together, across boarder lines, across the world, and build a new kind of world for all of us to live in.
Press TV: As you told us, you have experienced homelessness, how serious is the issue of poverty in America?
Honkala: You know, I know for people around the world they don’t think that things are difficult here. But living outside in the north, and almost freezing to death, is a trouble experience for anybody. Death is death is death; incarceration is incarceration, watching your child go without food, is watching your child go without food [like everywhere else].
And the thing that is even worse in this country is that it is not the question of development, it is not the question of scarcity, and it is directly the question of greed. When we live in the country where one of our states alone, California, could feed the world, we are continuing to let people go without the basic necessities of life.
Philadelphia, where I live, was just named the poorest city in the country. And we have children that go to bed every day in our country that are hungry. We have over 3 million homeless people. And like I said earlier, every 7 second a family is losing their home now in this country.
There is no reason for that; we have the ability to provide people with the healthcare. We have the ability to provide everybody with all the necessities of life. We just have a serious problem, we have one political party in this country and that represents corporate America. We don’t have a political system that represents the people, and that is the only reason that I have decided to run for Sheriff.
And even if I am given a court order to throw a family out of their homes, I will refuse to do that, because in this rich nation, there are no reasons to put a man, woman, or a child out on to our streets. It is our take, and it has to be stopped somewhere, it is going to stop here in Philadelphia.
Press TV: Cheri people seems to think that the pressure is mostly on the working class people. One of the protesters said his purpose for being there was to educate the people, and improve awareness about corporatism. Another one said people are not fully studying in the universities. How much people are educated, how much people are aware of how their government and their financial institutions operate?
Honkala: I wish it was just the question of education and it was that simple. But the reality is that the American people are like the sleeping giants right now. We do not have a free press. All of our presses are corporate controlled, it spits out messages, and we do not need military tanks outside of our homes, all we have to do is turn on the television, It feed us our supposed reality.
It has nothing to do with reality. People don’t sit there like the reality programs; they have these reality programs on TV right now, as a contuse way to sedate the American people. We have educational system that receives very little money. In Pennsylvania, we spent more money on prisons last year than we did on our educational system.
So I really believe in the days to come, you can’t fool the American peoples’ stomachs, you can’t fool them when you are denying them jobs, and you can’t fool them when you are kicking them out of their homes. This sleeping giant is going to wake up, it is going to get organized and it is going to do something to create a different kind of a world and different kind of a country.
But we are against some serious obstacles here; we have spent billions of dollars on preventing people for having their civil liberties. Basically anybody who is a serious organizer, that speaks out against our government speaks out against corporations begin to be called a terrorist in our country.
We do not have our first amendment rights anymore. People that participate in demonstrations are beaten by the police, they are incarcerated, they are silenced, they are under surveillance, many many serious problems, and billions of dollars are spent in this country to silence people.
And I know that people around the world, know what my government is capable of doing. Certainly when it comes to our military, where we continue to occupy, and invade different parts of the world, instead of spending that money on basic necessities of life here. So we got our work cut out for us, but I believe that things are so bad in this country that we have no other choice but to get organized. And I wish I could say that this is another extension of like the civil rights movements or fight for a 40 hour- work week; this is far more difficult than we are dealing with.
We are dealing with the death and dying of capitalism, and the wealthier are not going to go slowly in this process. It is going to be a difficult struggle, because the corporate America is going to do everything they possibly can to continue to keep control of this country.
But the people like myself and millions of others that are fighting on a daily basis, to feed and clothe our children and our neighbors, love our children and we are going to ensure that we have different kind of America.