Church to Hold “DNC Freedom School” for Protesters

The Arch Street United Methodist Church, in Center City on Broad Street, will also hold several courses to train people in non-violent protest.

Rev. Robin Hynicka announces the DNC Freedom School at the Arch Street United Methodist Church.

Rev. Robin Hynicka announces the DNC Freedom School at the Arch Street United Methodist Church.

In the summer of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Schools were an alternative education program for black students that, among other things, taught non-violent resistance and protest. Inspired by the schools that summer, the Arch Street United Methodist Church will be holding “DNC Freedom School” for protesters the Saturday before the convention kicks off.

“Revisitng the courage, commitment, conviction and cause of the Summer of Freedom and the Freedom Schools has the potential to shape the current context in incredible ways,” Rev. Robin Hynicka, senior paster of Arch Street UMC, said at a press event today. “We need to have a greater understanding of how to protest in this environment.” On stage, Hynicka was joined by leaders from other Christian and Jewish religious institutions in Philadelphia. The DNC Freedom School will be on July 23rd from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“People of all faiths love to often quote the golden rule, some derivative of loving each other as yourself,” said Rabbi Shawn Zevit, lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom. “And that’s a wonderful piece — that’s a nice bumper sticker. But the thing is if you cut that piece out of Leviticus chapter 19, what you miss is everything that proceeds that. To don’t put a stumbling block in front of the blind, not curse or gossip about someone when they’re not there and if someone’s doing abusive or destructive behavior, you absolutely have to engage them with cease and desist.”

The DNC Freedom School will include a screening of portions of From Selma to Stonewall — Are Were There Yet, the Rev. Gil Caldwell’s documentary.

In addition to the Freedom School, the church will also be holding four “Know Your Rights” trainings with sessions on non-violent protest and civil disobedience. Those will be at 2 p.m. on July 9th, 2 p.m. on July 16th, 6:30 p.m. on July 20th and 2 p.m. on July 23rd.

To demonstrate the power of non-violent protest, Hynicka then ceded the floor to members of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based group dedicated to attempting to end gun violence. Bryan Miller, executive director of the group, said it was a sit-in at Colosimo’s Gun Center on Spring Garden Street that led to the eventual closure of the store. “When we have employed civil disobedience in the past, what we’ve found is it is tremendously energizing,” Miller said.

Hynicka said he hopes his training sessions and DNC Freedom School can do the same for the DNC protesters.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.