Protesters target City Council, demand safe injection sites be established

Members of AIDS advocacy group say City Council is not acting fast enough.

Pat Loeb
August 29, 2018 - 4:33 pm
About 30 protesters from the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP talked about the need for safe injection sites to prevent overdoses during the current opioid epidemic.

Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Protesters blocked traffic during a City Hall rally Wednesday afternoon, demanding action on a strategy the city is already pursuing.

About 30 protesters from the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP talked about the need for safe injection sites to prevent overdoses during the current opioid epidemic. It's a view they share with city officials, who announced support for the sites in January but have been looking for partners to fund and operate them.

Protesters such as Brooke Feldman, however, aimed their ire at City Council, charging it's dragging its feet on the strategy.

"The only thing City Council has done is make drug using even riskier in Philadelphia," she said. "The only focus has been, 'How do we get these people out of our neighborhood?' If we're going to continue to see a City Council opposing a strategy that we know saves lives, then we need to demand that City Council tells us what the hell they think would work because sitting in there and doing nothing is not acceptable."

RELATED: Philadelphia pursues safe injection sites despite justice official's warning that they're illegal

Council members have taken vastly different stances on the issue, but the administration has been pursuing the sites without council involvement since it hasn't required any legislation.

The one council member who has been outspokenly opposed to safe injection sites is Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez from the 7th District, which covers parts of North Philadelphia. She was not at City Hall Wednesday but said in an emailed statement that she was unmoved by the protest.

"My first duty is to my constituents and the community I was elected to serve, and today's advocates who don't live in the impacted area didn't change that," the statement said. "My district has suffered for a long time, and we need a comprehensive plan to make it right. That's what I'm interested in supporting."