Outside the Acme on East Passyunk Avenue, John Gallo paused and complained when a group of Philadelphia Republicans asked him Saturday afternoon about the city's new soda tax.
"I get all my soda in Delaware County now," said Gallo, a South Philadelphia native, who switched his registration from Democrat to Republican seven years ago.
Inside, in the express-checkout line, Gallo's cart had one item in it: a 12-pack of Coca-Cola cans. It was an emergency purchase prompted by an impromptu visit from his grandson, he said. The Coke would cost him about $8, and he wasn't happy.
Still, he wasn't going to drive to Delaware County just for a 12-pack.
"It irks me," Gallo said.
Philly's GOP had dubbed Saturday a "Soda Tax Day of Action!" According to communications director Albert Eisenberg, about 40 people had fanned across the city's "working-class neighborhoods" to talk to residents and business owners about the tax and to encourage those against it to register Republican -- if they weren't already.
"The Philadelphia Republican Party," Eisenberg said Saturday morning, "stands against and stood against the mayor's regressive soda tax and other policies that hurt working people in Philadelphia."
Former Mayor Michael Nutter tried and failed to pass a soda tax in 2010. Mayor Kenney resurrected the idea, hoping a tax could help fund universal pre-K and renovate city parks and community centers.
In June, City Council approved a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and drinks with added sugar. The tax took effect last month.
"The soda tax was enacted to provide a path out of poverty for Philadelphia's families," Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said in an email Saturday, "by taxing an industry that has made millions off of our low-income communities, and then investing in pre-K, community schools, and struggling neighborhoods."
Details about the day of action were purposefully murky leading up to Saturday because of the "propensity for 'progressive' protesters to intimidate & harass our folks, pepper-spray random Republicans, 'punch Nazis,' etc.," Eisenberg wrote.
On Passyunk Avenue, GOP ward leaders Seth Kaufer and Bryan Leib joined a handful of others, trying to chat up people on the street about the tax. Some dismissed them with a "No thanks" before they finished, and in the line at Geno's Steaks, one woman said the tax was "bizarre," but she was from Maryland.
Kaufer, a gastroenterologist from South Philadelphia, said that the soda tax was a bipartisan issue and that he believed its implementation has been rife with "misinformation" about where the revenue would go.
"There's people all over who are against this," Kaufer said. "They stand with us, they want to change, and they want to work with us."
The group was also asking people if they were registered to vote and if they'd be interested in switching over to the Republican Party "as a protest," Kaufer said, "to show that they don't agree with what's going on in city government right now."
Dunn, in an email, rattled off the groups of Philadelphians he said wouldn't be switching parties, including "the nearly 2,000 families who are now receiving free, quality pre-K through that same program, allowing many of the parents to find employment, since they now have cost-effective, stable childcare."
"And those numbers will only get bigger as we increase over the next five years," Dunn wrote.
At the Acme, the GOP members asked Carol Pasquarello, of South Philadelphia, if she had heard about the tax. She stopped mid-parking-lot to talk, expressing mixed but strong feelings.