A group of students gathered last week to protest against the proposed Philadelphia 76ers’ arena plan.
On March 3, the Students for the Preservation of Chinatown (SPOC) took to 36th and Walnut Streets to demand the removal of real estate developer David Adelman and Sixers co-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer from the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School and Penn Medicine.
Dozens of students also called on the university to stray from corporations that are financing the arena and to issue a statement in support of the Chinatown community’s opposition.
Kaia Chau, the cofounder of SPOC, said that students saw Penn to be “complicit in the gentrification and displacement” of communities of color, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This is the most tangible way that students can get involved: challenging their university, especially when your university, like Penn, is one of the most influential institutions in Philadelphia,” she said.
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The 76ers arena plan, which was announced in July last year, was proposed to occupy 10th and Market Streets, with developers hoping to revitalize the area’s economy.
However, the proposal was immediately met with criticism from the Chinatown community, who cited concerns surrounding displacement, gentrification and the loss of Chinese culture in the area.
Leaders previously announced the official formation of the “Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena,” and members of the Jewish community have also stood in solidarity with Chinatown residents.
Last month, “No Arena in Chinatown Solidarity” activists created a music video to encourage public opposition to the proposed Philadelphia 76ers’ arena plan.
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The Sixers have released a statement in response to the multiple protests, according to CBS News.
Firstly, the arena will not be built in Chinatown; this project will be built in the Fashion District at Market East, a location that was once the center of commerce for Philadelphia for 100 years, on a site that has been a mall for nearly 50 years. Furthermore, in addition to committing $50 million to improve, strengthen and enhance communities around Market East – the largest community benefits agreement in the history of our city – and create jobs for Philadelphians across the city, we have been aggressively pursuing solutions to improve commerce, transit, safety, cleanliness and vibrance, to what has historically been one of the most important hubs in all of Philadelphia, but one that has been struggling for years.
However, many activists and Chinatown residents have voiced concerns that the arena would still negatively impact the community even though it is not directly in Chinatown.
“You can be a block away and still have a major impact,” Harry Leong, the president of the Philadelphia Suns, previously told CBS News. “When you push the community members out whether businesses, whether residences, then you destroy the culture of the community. The culture comes with the people.”