For nearly a month and a half, David Lipshutz has been protesting at Mt. Laurel’s post office.
It started with Lipshutz holding a sign that reads, “Do not mess with our postal service.” In the weeks since he first stood outside the post office, Lipshutz said more of his fellow protestors have joined him.
“We’re protesting the slashing of postal services,” he said. “It’s an obvious attempt to steal an election by sabotaging vote-by-mail ballots. It’s a non-partisan protest, but that’s the driving force behind it.”
Lipshutz, who said he has no affiliation with the U.S. Postal Service, was inspired to take action once he learned sorting machines “that can sort 30,000 pieces of mail a minute” had been removed from the township’s post office — and destroyed — while mailboxes have been removed all over the country.
“It’s led to mass delays in delivering mail, not surprisingly,” he said. “[U.S. Postmaster General Louis] DeJoy has gone on TV, testified before Congress and said he’s trying to improve efficiency. So I’ve talked to postal-service employees and I asked if removing sorting machines improves efficiency, and they look at me like I’m an idiot, because of course it doesn’t.”
While Lipshutz said it’s concerning that those delays can impact the 2020 election with so many voters relying on mail-in ballots, he also worries about those who depend on the postal service for daily necessities.
“It’s not only the vote-by-mail ballots that are affected: People depend on the mail for other important items, like medications, checks, and even animals are shipped through mail, and they’ve died,” Lipshutz noted.
The goal of the protests is two-fold, he said. The first is to put an end to removing machines from post offices, while the second is to see those previously removed items returned.
The morning of Sept. 19, Lipshutz and roughly a dozen demonstrators of all ages and backgrounds joined him at their usual post office outpost. Just days after a Federal judge temporarily blocked the policy changes that created the issues they had been protesting, the group was tentatively optimistic but still wary.
“How will they replace destroyed sorting machines? Will they replace the two mail boxes that were taken from Larchmont Boulevard back in May — which were there for the 20 years I’ve lived here?” asked Pam Gray. “Post offices in general are an American institution, and with the election and vote-by-mail ballots, I’m afraid of what this could mean for this institution and democracy.”
It’s the potential for a slippery slope that concerns Gray the most.
“Today the erosion of our institutions affects the post office — what’s next?” she said.
Wanda Jau had her own reasons for standing up for the USPS.
“I’m here as a representation of Black Lives Matter,” she said. “I want to speak for the African American folks who are severely affected in so many ways by everything that’s happening.”
Lipshutz estimates there are usually about 20 people who have been demonstrating with the group.
“It started growing and growing,” he explained. “Some people are out there every protest and new people show up all the time.”
At first, Lipshutz said, protestors held their demonstrations every day except for Sunday, since the post office is closed; they’ve since taken to protesting Saturday and Monday mornings.
Demonstrators have received a “spectrum of responses” from passers-by. Lipshutz said some people do stop and engage in civil conversation, and the group hands out contact information so supporters can get in touch with elected officials. Mostly, he said, there’s a lot of honking and waving, as well as thumbs-ups and peace signs — “but we’ve gotten a few middle fingers and some cursing, too,” Lipshutz added.
But he said the response is “overwhelmingly good” and he is heartened by how the protests are inspiring the next generation of civically engaged citizens.
Emily Gray — who her father Christopher said has dressed up as the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Halloween — was the youngest protestor there. The 8-year-old was inspired to join the group weeks ago and said that the experience has been a “really fun” educational experience supporting a cause that matters to her.
“The post office helps a lot of people get their medicines and checks,” she said. “The best part has been all the honking because people agree.”
As others around the country voice their frustrations and outrage over post office issues, Lipshutz finds comfort in the reminder that his fellow citizens are standing up for what they believe in.
“It’s good to see the message is getting across and how this movement is growing,” he noted. “Voting is important, and medications and Social Security checks and letters from sons and daughters who live across the country are important, too. Do not mess with our postal service.”