Protest personalities: Cheri Honkala

Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. (Dana DiFilippo/WHYY)

Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. (Dana DiFilippo/WHYY)

City officials expect as many as 50,000 protesters a day to hit Philadelphia’s streets and a demonstration zone at FDR Park, across from the Democratic National Convention taking place at Wells Fargo Center.

Each day, we’ll profile a protest leader to give you a peek at the personalities behind the chants and signs.

Want to participate in or watch a protest march? Or would you prefer to dodge protests — and the traffic congestion they could cause — altogether? The DNC Action Committee has a protest master schedule online.

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Poverty, homelessness, hunger, and unemployment. She’s the founder and national organizer of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.


Marches, “reality tours” through poor neighborhoods, encampments, civil-rights lawsuits and attention-grabbing stunts, like the “fart-in” scheduled for July 28 to coincide with Hillary Clinton’s nomination acceptance speech. A July 25 “March for Our Lives” also is planned, from City Hall to FDR Park. And a “Clintonville” tent city will go up this weekend in a vacant lot. (She’s keeping the location secret for now, so the city, which prohibits overnight camping, can’t intervene to thwart it.)



Home base


Day job

Her activism.

Bet you didn’t know

The Minnesota native grew up poor and, as a young mother, lived in her car and abandoned buildings with her young son, actor Mark Webber. That hardscrabble childhood didn’t doom him, though; he found success in Hollywood and often returns to Philly to march with his mom — and will do so again during the DNC.

“My children are at every march,” said Honkala, who also has a 13-year-old autistic son and frequently fosters children.

Besides her activism, Honkala also has run for elected office: Alongside Jill Stein as the Green Party’s vice-presidential nominee during the 2012 U.S. presidential election and again, with the Green Party, for Philadelphia sheriff in 2011. (One campaign promise: she wouldn’t evict people from their homes.)

In her words

“We’re a multi-racial, intergenerational movement made up of poor and low-income families across the United States, dedicated to ending poverty, hunger, and homelessness. We teach people the politics of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness, while we develop leaders and help people secure basic necessities.

“Some people here in Philadelphia [the poorest of the nation’s 10 largest cities] don’t just have to worry about going a day without $2; some actually go weeks without that. And yet last year, we spent more on prisons than we did on education. As Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, we have to ignore the red lights and be like the ambulance drivers and go through them.”


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