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May 04, 2016

Philly soda tax protesters descend on City Hall for opposition rally

Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax coalition voices opposition to Kenney proposal

Protests Soda Tax
050416_Sodataxprotest No Philly Soda Tax/Twitter

Soda tax protesters demonstrate outside City Hall.

A large crowd of citizens, local businesses and elected officials rallied outside City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to protest Mayor Jim Kenney's proposed 3-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages in Philadelphia, which has inspired a heated publicity war over a plan to fund universal pre-K, parks improvements and community schools.

Members of the Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax coalition gathered to voice opposition to a "regressive" proposal they say will stifle local business, threaten jobs and place further strain on low-income communities. Mayor Kenney and city officials say the tax will improve public health and raise an additional $95 million in annual revenue for the city.

Several distribution trucks emblazoned with soda brands were led out by Teamsters Local 830 treasurer Daniel Grace, who criticized Mayor Kenney's portrayal of the corporate interests aligned against the tax.

"The mayor uses the term Big Soda when he talks about why you are out here today fighting this tax. He can use that term all he wants, but when I look at this crowd I see working people with good jobs who want to support their families. There will be a lot fewer of you if this tax is approved,” Grace said.

Dany Vinas, owner of CTOWN Supermarket, said the tax will drive consumers to suburban markets in order to purchase affected products, including all beverages with added caloric sweeteners. Milk, 100-percent juice and zero-calorie drinks would be excluded from the tax. 

“People won’t stop buying these drinks; they will just stop buying them in Philadelphia,” Vinas said. “That means potential revenues from the tax will be negated while also hurting local suppliers – like myself and my family.”

Scenes from the protest included both opponents and supporters, who took their message to Twitter in advance of a 5 p.m. public hearing at City Council on Kenney's FY 2016-2017 budget proposal.