Philly FIGHT Board Members, Staff Protest at PCHR Office

A group affiliated with the HIV/AIDS nonprofit called on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to take down its Gayborhood racism report.

Philly FIGHT logo

On Monday morning, a group of 12 people affiliated with Gayborhood nonprofit Philadelphia FIGHT protested at the Walnut Street office of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR), demanding that the agency not “shut down” the HIV/AIDS organization.

The group, consisting of Philly FIGHT board members, staff, and patients, carried signs supporting the organization and a folder with a list of demands for PCHR executive director Rue Landau. Protesters called for PCHR to remove its Gayborhood racism report, released in January 2017 which mandated Philly FIGHT to take part in racial sensitivity training, from its website, and to take a tour of Philadelphia FIGHT’s headquarters at the personal request of executive director Jane Shull.

A PCHR spokesperson confirmed to Philadelphia magazine that the agency had received the demands and is scheduled to meet with the group on March 1st.

People waiting for appointments with PCHR during the protest said that the group “demanded a meeting with Rue” with “threats to do a sit-in until they got one.” “It was a little hectic over here this morning,” said one woman who was filing out a form in the guest lobby during the protest. “PCHR staff had to take the protesters into a back conference room to calm them down and they left shortly after that.”

Shortly after the protest ended around 11 a.m., Philadelphia magazine spoke with staff outside of Philadelphia FIGHT’s headquarters at 1233 Locust Street, some of whom claimed that the action was premeditated. “We were told the city and activists were trying to shut down Philly FIGHT,” said one staffer, who requested not to be named. “I was told by a supervisor that the protesters were trying to defend our organization and that this was orchestrated by upper-level staff.” A caseworker who claims they are close to patients and others involved with the protest says this response was part of “Philly FIGHT’s campaign to clear their name after so much drama lately.”

Over the past two weeks, FIGHT has aggressively attempted to counter allegations made by Elisabeth Long, a white former outreach coordinator who had spent three years at the Gayborhood nonprofit, of “pervasive racism” at the organization; Long also called on executive director Jane Shull to resign.

In a February 12th statement to Philadelphia magazine addressing Long’s claims, Philly FIGHT’s legal counsel remarked that “in the coming weeks, [Philly FIGHT] will be posting responses to the allegations made by Ms. Long, members of the [Black and Brown Workers Collective], and anyone else who chooses to distort, denigrate, or in any other deny the validity of the work that FIGHT continues to do.”

Shortly after, on February 16th, Philly FIGHT posted a “Petition Against Threat to Dismantle Philadelphia FIGHT” on its website with the claim that it “was spearheaded by members of the community and is still circulating.” On February 17th, Philly FIGHT posted a “Letter from the Physicians and Dentists of the Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers,” stating that “recent calls for the “dismantlement” of Philadelphia FIGHT have compelled us to speak out.”

Philadelphia magazine has obtained a February 17th email Shull sent to Philly FIGHT staff, board, and others with the subject line “Philadelphia FIGHT will not be dismantled,” stating that the organization has “begun to post responses to the recent charges by the Black and Brown Workers Collective and their allies.”

Philadelphia FIGHT did not respond to Philadelphia magazine’s request for comment.

The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative (BBWC), formerly known as the Black and Brown Workers Collective, sent the following statement to Philadelphia magazine in response to remarks made by Philadelphia FIGHT about the organization and its tactics:

What was witnessed today was a misinformation campaign directly from FIGHT leadership to avoid accountability. Why would a worker’s rights organization seek to close a workspace when we are working to improve workplace conditions? Philadelphia FIGHT leadership is attempting to equate their leadership with the institution itself. Case in point, that their leadership has failed.

This is not an attack on Philadelphia FIGHT. This is about the removal of toxic leadership. This is about transferring power from leadership that has proven itself to be illigitimate through its targeted violence. That is why we must work with those most impacted to shift power back to workers and the community.