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In March, 2018, Honkala ted a delegation of 100 activists to Washington, D. C., as part of the “March for Our Lives.” She asked to speak with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson about a range of issues, including the lack of affordable housing in the US. and the brutal destruction Puerto Rican housing caused by Hurricane Maria.
Initially informed that someone from HUD would meet with Honkala, when she arrived at the Housing and Urban Development office to request to speak with the Secretary, she was denied access and subsequently arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.
After a 3-day jury trial, Judge Juliet J McKenna of the D.C. Superior Court ruled that Honkala was guilty of misdemeanor criminal trespassing on government property in the first degree and sentenced her to time served.
“They want to silence me for standing up for poor people, for affordable housing and questioning the business speculation” Honkala said in a recent press statement. “…Not only are we being gentrified out of existence, our ability to speak out is also being taken away.”
“It is outrageous that any citizen would be charged for trying to speak with a government official about a legitimate issue,” said Jody Grage, secretary of the Green Party of the U.S. “Cheri Honkala has been a long-time leader in advocacy for our most vulnerable citizens. To imagine that she would be turned away from voicing her concerns, let alone charged and sentenced, is unconscionable. This is a rallying cry for all of us to step forward and express grave concern about our right to petition the government for redress of grievances and to speak out about the ongoing economic injustices that have been plaguing US citizens for decades.”
“This decision places a chilling effect on every citizen’s ability to air their grievances to our government officials, a right clearly protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Justin Beth, co-chair of the Green Party of the U.S. “It is unbelievable that Secretary Carson has called for 100,000 people to be dropped from public housing programs. Arresting and charging Cheri Honkala for trying to give another side to the story is simply appalling. Green Party members everywhere support Cheri Honkala. Her activism and determination to stand up for impoverished people in our country is amazing and an example for everyone to follow. We stand behind her, one hundred percent.”
Honkala plans to appeal the case. PPEHRC will meet to discuss how ot respond. to plan how on Wednesday, June 13, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at 1505 W. Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia. All are welcome.
For more information:
Full release available at https://www.gp.org/attack_on_1st_amendment_rights