Philadelphia's super progressive candidate explains why he's running for the head of law enforcement after 30 years suing police

Philadelphia LarryKrasner (92 of 97)

  • Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner is running for district attorney in Philadelphia, an important election in the city that voters are deciding Tuesday.
  • As a civil rights attorney, Krasner spent his career suing police for civil rights abuses, defending activists, and fighting to change the criminal justice system.
  • Krasner says he decided to run, at 56-years-old, “because there’s stuff going on on the inside that is hard to fix from the outside.”

By the end of the day Tuesday, civil rights attorney Larry Krasner could be Philadelphia’s next district attorney.

The DA is a powerful position in Philadelphia, a city with the highest rate of incarceration, the highest poverty rate, and the third highest violent crime rate of the US’s 10 most populated cities.

Krasner is an atypical candidate for DA. At 56, he is pursuing elected office for the first time after a 30-year career defending radical activist groups like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philadelphia. He’s also sued police for civil rights violations more than 75 times.

His opponent, Republican Beth Grossman, spent more than a decade in the DA’s office and has run on her experience with the position.

While Krasner has been criticized by some for his lack of insider experience, he has gained a rabid following in Philadelphia among the city’s activists, liberals, and leftists. They’ve all thrown their support behind his campaign platform calling for the end of “mass incarceration,” the constellation of state and federal policies that have put more than 2 million Americans behind bars.

Business Insider recently followed Krasner on the campaign trail during the waning weeks of his campaign.

One of our biggest questions was why, after a career fighting outside the system, he decided it was time to take it over.

Here’s what Krasner said:

“I have — like a lot of civil rights lawyers, like a lot of activists — been beating my head against the wall of the DA’s office and the [Philadelphia] police department for a long time because the DA’s office in Philly was not enforcing the law against police. Somebody had to do it.

I’m not a fan of bullies, and a small portion of the police department were behaving like bullies. So I felt that somebody had to prosecute them, which is essentially what I did by filing civil rights lawsuits against them. I used the only tools in the toolbox to essentially be a private prosecutor against civil rights violations and corruption and brutality on the part of police. I’ve been doing that for a long time. And activists have been doing that for a long time and we’ve done some good.

But ultimately if you never break down the wall, you may have to go through the door, because there’s stuff going on on the inside that is hard to fix from the outside.

So having been a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer for 30 years, I watched this election with my usual level of dismay because I didn’t see any great candidates popping up … And the rest of [the candidates during the primary] frankly were, at best, progressive-lite, more like faux-progressives who had not shown in their careers or in their dealings with me — and I dealt with a lot of them personally — who had not shown attention for reform … I just figured this is ridiculous. Somebody real has got to get into this because these people aren’t going to change anything.”

Check out our deep dive into the final weeks of Larry Krasner’s campaign here »

SEE ALSO: An inside look at most progressive candidate in a generation — who’s poised to take on the most incarcerated major city in the US

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