Chris’ Speech to Activists Marching to Harrisburg

Today, members of Decarcerate PA finished their 110 mile march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. Decarerate PA is a grassroots coalition that seeks to end prison construction and criminalization in the state of Pennsylvania. This march shows our commitment to the “People’s Budget” which champions the funding of schools, not prisons. The Philadelphia Student Union supported their march to Harrisburg. At the kick off of the march, PSU member, Chris Riley spoke about why we are fighting for the People’s Budget. Below is his speech:

Hello. My name is Chris Riley. I am from South Philadelphia High School and I’m in the 12th grade, and I’m a member of the Philadelphia Student Union.

Some of you know that there was a walkout last Friday and there were over 5000 students there that walked to city hall to tell city council that we need more school funding. We walked out of school because they are going to cut teachers, sports, extracurricular activities, counselors and more. But what are they keeping? They are keeping cops in our schools. This is making our schools more like prisons.

Why do we need all of these other activities and not more cops? Because we can learn more when we are in a calm environment. It’s better to have all these things like teachers and extracurricular activities so we can make friends and learn to get along with each other. School is important me. I like being around my teachers. They challenge me to try harder and be better. Cops aren’t going to help us learn and that’s what school is for.

I have an older brother, he has a learning disability. Even though I’m a senior and I’m about to graduate, I want my brother to have all resources that he needs to finish school too. I am worried that the budget cuts to education will stop him from being able to graduate too. That’s why I continue to fight for the funding that we need for our schools.

They want us to go to school, but they aren’t giving us what we need to learn. Instead they are building more prisons and putting more cops in schools. It’s like they’re saying to us, we don’t care about your future.

I want Governor Corbett to see some of Philadelphia public schools and see all the potential that we have and the good that can come out of them if are funded better. Governor Corbett, I want to say to you, fund education. Invest in our future, not in locking us up!

Do we need more school cops?

Are we going to tell Governor Corbett to fund our schools?

Are we going to tell Governor Corbett to stop building prisons?

The Philadelphia Student Union and I support all the people that are walking to Harrisburg for the People’s Budget. I wish I could walk with you all to Harrisburg. I think you all are doing the right thing. People are going to notice you and they will be inspired to do something too. And then we can all come together and make a bigger movement.

Good luck and have a safe trip.

Thank you.

This is me speaking.


Josh from the Youth Art and Self Empowerment Project

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