After Raid and Arrests, Where Does Occupy Philly Go From Here?

A late-night police raid pushed out the last of the protesters at Dilworth Plaza and resulted in arrests along Broad Street in North Philly.

By Text and photographs by Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Nov. 30, 2011

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Even during the earliest planning stages of Occupy Philly—when the idea of taking over a public space somewhere in the city in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street was still a nebulous dream—the 99 percent knew it wouldn’t last forever.

“I’m sure [the city will] try to shut us down,” facilitator Nik Zalesky said in late September, “but we’ll do it as long as we can.”

For nearly two months, Occupy held Dilworth Plaza, transforming the concrete space around City Hall into a colorful, controversial protest camp. They screamed about corporate greed, wealth inequality and social injustice. They marched through the streets, chased U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor out of town, and got arrested sitting on bridges and in bank lobbies. They weathered snowstorms, infighting, ridicule and shouts of “Get a job!” and “Take a fucking bath!” from passers-by.

They fed and sheltered the homeless gravitating in large numbers to the encampment, then struggled to deal with the deteriorating health and safety conditions that both the city and the movement itself blamed on the homeless.

They watched as occupations in New York, Oakland and elsewhere turned ugly, with violent police raids and mass arrests, and wondered when it would happen here—even though the PPD had been more benevolent to Occupy Philly demonstrators than just about any other police force in the country had been to their own Occupiers.

By last Friday, though, Mayor Nutter—who’d presided over the “most polite” occupation in the nation—finally had enough, and gave the shutdown order that Occupy Philly long expected.

But as 5 p.m.—the hour of eviction, as decreed by Nutter—loomed on Sunday, you could feel the electricity pulsing through Dilworth Plaza: A mix of tension, nervous anticipation and excitement that hadn’t reached this level since that first morning of the occupation on Oct. 6.

Hundreds of defiant Occupiers intent on spurning the order and risking arrest scurried around spray painting abandoned tents with final messages for city cleanup crews (“You’re drunk with power … it’s time to sober up,” read one), and sewing “unarmed person” patches to their jackets. The usual chants of “We are the 99 percent!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” sprung up repeatedly across the grounds. A new rallying cry cropped up, too: “Phase two, coming soon!”

“Trust me, dude, this is only the start,” said Occupier Shawn McMonigle, standing in the middle of the plaza as a fellow demonstrator dismantled his tent a few yards away. “People who think this thing is dead are completely mistaken.”

Nearby, other demonstrators drew slogans on pieces of cardboard, worn furniture and the backs of empty pizza boxes: “You can’t evict an idea,” “We’ll be back” and “Coming to a neighborhood near you …”

Another man walked around the plaza holding his sign aloft: “Where next? It’s a surprise!”

“Don’t worry, you’ll see,” he said when asked what the surprise might entail.

By twilight, more than a thousand people filled the plaza and more than a hundred Occupiers sat down, arms entwined, chanting and waiting for the cops to come in and enforce the eviction order.

Then, it happened. Late last night and into the early hours of this morning—when the Occupiers were sleeping in their tents—cops started circling City Hall. At about 1 a.m., they issued the first order to leave City Hall, and protesters started marching toward Rittenhouse Square. Chanting that they would be keeping the cops awake all night, protesters then walked north on Broad Street, where they were arrested en mass at about 4:30 this morning.

Now, people both within and outside the movement are waiting to find out what Phase II of the fledgling movement, following the demise of the round-the-clock encampment, will look like.

The city’s already extended one offer—a 30-day, potentially renewable demonstration permit at the adjacent Thomas Paine Plaza. But there are restrictions: Occupy Philly daily activity is limited to 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.; and no tents or overnight activity or sleeping is permitted.

“I have no idea what’s gonna happen next, and I don’t really like their offer,” says Lex, a member of Occupy Philly’s safety group, “but I know this is just the beginning for us.”

Of the many Occupations around the country, Occupy Philly is in the middle of the pack as far as dealing with the loss of 24/7 camping. Occupiers in Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles are still fighting eviction efforts, while those in N.Y.C., Oakland and Portland, Ore., have gotten a head start on that next phase.

On Black Friday, several hundred Occupy Wall Streeters packed New York’s Zuccotti Park—ground zero for the movement—to maintain their General Assembly, daily protests and working groups despite losing their encampment in a Nov. 15 raid marked by police brutality. Ringed by metal barricades and a couple hundred cops in a two-block radius, demonstrators dealt with the new rules. No blankets, tents or tarps. They’re allowed to be in the park 24 hours a day, and still are, but if they so much as lay on the ground (ostensibly to sleep) they’re subject to immediate arrest.

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. farmerhunt said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 07:30PM

“Make no mistake. This revolution ain't goin' away. For every physical participant of OWS, there are tens of thousands of thoroughly pissed off citizens who've been shown a ray of hope by the OWS witness. All revolutions, and that's what this is, grow by fits and starts, gathering wisdom along the way. Dispersal into the neighborhoods is now essential - making the kitchen table conversation happen. The shared rage I feel from just about everyone I meet - friends, clerks, whoever - is palpable and unrelenting. This is an historic "awakening".”

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2. Bugnuts said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:51PM

“All they did was trash the plaza and create more body odor. What has changed attention seekers?”

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3. Traum said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:55PM

“Contrary to popular belief within the confines of this misguided group, not everyone, or even the majority of people in this city want anything near what they are leading their ideas towards. Communism/socialism do not work on a large scale in an actual world situation. It's the responsibility of the people to defend against all threats, foreign or domestic.”

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4. William said... on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:55PM

“Annoying hipsters looking for attention, now you forever have a criminal record for defying the city, are you better off now? You brought attention, but not really beneficial attention. Things arent going to change in our lifetime. Use intelligence to produce change, not corny, annoying protest copying the 60s...really work at it, make sacrifices, tent squatting isnt a sacrifice”

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5. Pat Gunn said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:13AM

“Whether we achieve a result or not, it is worthwhile to try. We have raised awareness, and will do our best to continue doing so. Endangering the status quo by becoming something talked about - that's worthwhile. Intelligence without passion is as worthless as passion without intelligence. Occupy brought those traits together; the conversations were fantastic.”

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6. Traum said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:15AM

“To Pat Gunn, that's true except for it being worthwhile and the intelligence part”

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7. Anonymous said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 01:33AM

“Passion without concrete goals you can reach is a daydream.

It's a stoner's idea that he can still change the world with one hand, so he doesn't have to put down his joint.”

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8. P.Hinds said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 03:09AM

“All former military veterans need to get off your ass and support the movement for no one has been more exploited then the veterans with endless wars and military spending that benefited the corporations and the wealthy how many of then have served this country and shouldered the burden of war with the dead and wounded on the battlefield, few and far between but sense 9-11 the military industrial complex has showered this group with hundreds of billions of dollars and in return we get back the battered, broken, bloated bodies of tens of thousands of Americans. Veterans please be sure to take your VA ID CARD or other ID, if you think there is a possibility of you being arrested please leave credit cards and drivers license at home if they are not needed. "the police have been known to lose these things".”

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9. Traum said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:36AM

“What exactly do you know of the mindset of the the American Veteran Mr P Hinds? Its honorable work that should be valued and respected. To say that they are some form of intellectual child, unable to realize any aspect of the world around them until they've met the great P Hinds, is to state that everything that they've gone through, they've done for their country, was a fools errand. I believe that their courage and determination deserve far more respect than that, as well as far more than you ever will.”

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10. P.Hinds said... on Dec 3, 2011 at 01:17AM

I am a expert: drafted at 20 years old Feb,1969 sent to Vietnam june 1969 served with the 196th light infantry brigade wounded in action August 24th 1969 was hospitalize in Vietnam , Japan , San Francisco and valley forge army hospital Pennsylvania just one of 361,000 Dead and Wounded from LBJ War.

A Great War leaves a country with three Armies
Army of Cripples , Army of Mourners and a Army of THIEVES.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Dec 5, 2011 at 01:46PM

“I'm sick of the many news articles in many papers about various police interactions with the occupy movement. I would be interested in more articles examining whether occupy has actually had an impact on society, besides merely 'awareness.'

I am (unbiasedly) curious as to whether this movement is actually accomplishing anything in terms of policy or law making.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 6, 2011 at 08:04PM

“End the Fed. Ron Paul 2012. Pure Constitutionalism.”


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