On Tuesday, U.S. congressman Paul Ryan visited a Harlem charter school, sparking protests after the Republican leader and his GOP House colleagues passed their controversial health care bill.
When news broke of Ryan’s visit at Success Academy 1 Charter School, several action groups began demonstrations outside the school.
But one of the most vocal opponents to Ryan’s Harlem visit came from the one of the community’s most prominent pastors.
“Paul Ryan’s appearance in Harlem today is nothing more than a photo op meant to distract us from the GOP’s agenda — which is to promote policies that benefit the wealthy and cut funding, resources and opportunities from the underserved in our communities,” Mike Walrond, senior pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church, told theGrio.com. “As he meets Harlem students today, he should take to heart what will happen to these children if their families lose lifesaving healthcare, and witness the real-world impact of decisions that ripple far beyond the halls of Congress.”
Walrond, who ran for a U.S. Congressional seat in 2014, said that citizens need to know that “the GOP is not committed to policies of malignant neglect when it comes to poor and marginalized communities,” adding, “They need to feel trust in the fact that the GOP respects their basic humanity, and will build policies that reflect that respect.”
So far, he says, the Republican leadership in Congress has failed to live up to that trust.
“The truth of the matter is that most political leaders look for photo ops in safe spaces. They rarely look for photo ops in spaces that undermine their political narratives or agendas,” Walrond said.
“Residents ought not focus on photo ops, but instead be visible, vocal and civically engaged. We have to learn the value of making democracy and the democratic process work. We have to force these political leaders to hear our voices, and hold them accountable.”