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May 15, 2019

Milton Street says he's running for Philly mayor as an independent

The perennial candidate would face off against Republican challenger Billy Ciancaglini and the winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary

Politics Mayoral Race
Milton Street Courtesy of Kyle Cassidy/for PhillyVoice

On March 1, 2007, mayoral candidate Milton Street hosted a press conference outside City Hall that instantly entered Philadelphia political lore since he used a coffin as a prop and sang a gospel song on stage.

Milton Street has run for office as a Democrat, and he’s run for office as a Republican.

Now, 12 years after draping himself over a coffin outside Philadelphia City Hall in a rather memorable political moment, the 80-year-old rabble-rouser says he’s again fighting to become the city’s mayor. This time, he's running as an independent.

In a Wednesday afternoon post on Facebook, Street declared these intentions, and noted that he’ll hold a Saturday event at the First Immanuel Baptist Church, 24th Street and Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Should his campaign come to fruition, he will face off against Republican candidate Billy Ciancaglini and the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary between incumbent Mayor Jim Kenney and challengers Anthony Hardy Williams and Alan Butkovitz.

Street told PhillyVoice that he’s changed his voter registration to Independent 30 days before the primary deadline, rendering him eligible to run for office.

He said he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that Kenney will win the primary, and that’s why the power of seeking office compelled him to make this decision.

“Kenney,” he said simply, when asked what inspired him to run. 

“The policies that stem violence in the city start with the mayor, not City Council. The mayor," he continued. "He’s said the violence has reached an emergency level, but also that he has a five-year plan to change it. A five-year plan to deal with an emergency? That’s ridiculous.”

Violence – as it had been in his previous runs for various offices – is the focal point of Street’s latest campaign, though it goes beyond his 2016 proposal to hire 5,000 residents and train them in the martial arts to serve as a backup law enforcement organization.

"White people are not responsible for behavior in black communities. Black people are." – Milton Street

Street, who has served time in federal prison and worked as an Uber driver in between campaigns, said he’ll empower community groups to take the lead.

“There are so many groups that want to do something about the violence,” he said. “I will call them together and lay out my plan. Nobody can stop violence in the community better than the people who live there. Until you stand up as a community and say we’re not taking this anymore, nothing will change.

“People don’t want to hear this, but white people are not responsible for behavior in black communities. Black people are. It’s time to man up and step up to your responsibilities. I’m going to challenge them to do that. It’s gotten to the point now where enough people are out there looking for this kind of leadership.”

MORE ELECTIONS: 2019 Pennsylvania primary: What you need to know

Street, the older brother of former Philadelphia mayor John Street, said “what really pissed me off” was hearing that Kenney was a no-show at the Black Women’s Leadership candidates forum earlier this month.

“C’mon, man,” he said. “These are the black mothers and grandmothers who have children being shot dead in the street. You have to be passionately engaged to do what’s necessary to make our streets safer. 

"Kenney’s body language says, ‘I don’t give a s***.’ After next Tuesday, he’s going on vacation, but he has to be pressured from now all the way to the general election.”

He hearkened back to that memorable coffin-related press conference in 2007 as a reminder that violence has long been his major issue.

“All these years after I put the casket up there, nothing’s changed. No, actually, something has changed: it’s gotten worse, and it’s going to keep getting worse unless someone stays on top of Kenney,” he said. “He doesn’t want to come to debates. He can run, but I won’t let him hide and turn his back on his constituents.”

Street said he can formally file to run as of August 1, estimating he needs roughly 3,000 signatures to get on the ballot as an independent candidate in the November election.

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