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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“Watch this,” says “Mad Mike,” a burly 26-year-old with a Guy Fawkes mask perched on the back of his head who proceeds to sprawl out on the concrete. Indeed, within seconds, three scowling NYPD cops approach, but back off when they see he’s being interviewed by a reporter. “It’s ridiculous and unconstitutional,” says Mike, getting back up. “This is what you have to look forward to in Philly. How else are they gonna keep people from sleeping there?”

Other OWSers said Occupiers in Philly, post-encampment, will have to deal with further hindrances in the coming months. “It gets pretty fuckin’ cold in the winter, so good luck if you can’t have any kind of shelter,” says Roman Reznichenko, who spent a week at Occupy Philly in late October. He adds that there are transportation issues, too. “If you’re not camping down there, you gotta get there and I know I couldn’t afford that,” he says. “I know a lot of [Occupiers] who are from Jersey or out in the sticks and they don’t have the money to go back and forth every day.”

And if the encampment itself has been part of the message, then having to pack up shop every night could kill the momentum. “Out of sight is out of mind,” says Zuccotti Park mainstay John Nicholson, a 25-year-old EMT worker. “The press isn’t gonna cover it nearly as much without the camping and some of the drama that’s gone along with that, so if people aren’t devoted to sticking around all night and keeping it going and challenging them when they say you can’t be there, then this could all fade away pretty fast,” he says.

Other Zuccotti demonstrators say that the forced removal of the encampment has actually been a blessing—one that Occupy Philly may come to understand going forward. “Things needed to change here, so taking all that away and forcing us to rebuild has helped,” says Melissa, 25, who was arrested in the Nov. 15 raid. “Everyone who’s still here really cares about the movement.”

Hristo Boynob, 18, agrees the raid helped weed out the less committed and took away one of the main sources of scorn that’s been heaped on the movement. “There’s no more free food, no more parties and whatnot, so a lot of the provocateurs and the homeless and the crazies are gone and the people left are the true believers,” he says.

Crucial for Occupy Philly’s survival over the next few months, say N.Y.C. protesters, is for them to cultivate the same type of support network that’s sustained Occupy Wall Street over the past two weeks. Melissa says she and other demonstrators have linked up with people living near Zuccotti Park who let Occupiers crash in their apartments for a few hours at a time. Nicholson says that pizza joints and other local restaurants continue to donate food. “We respected those places and didn’t trash their bathrooms, so they’re still willing to help us,” he says.

There’s been talk that the attention-grabbing encampments and accompanying sit-ins and marches have already served the purpose of kickstarting Occupy, so the next phase of the movement should involve giving up the protest sites and migrating to the Internet, where information can be more efficiently disseminated and the movement’s energy redirected into more pragmatic pursuits like voter education and mobilization.

Chris Faraone—a reporter with The Boston Phoenix who’s been covering Occupy Boston and has spent time at a dozen more Occupy sites around the country the past two months—disagrees. “Whether it’s occupation-camping mode or not, I see a physical presence being the watermark of this movement,” says Faraone. “People really need to get together in person to make plans for these events and marches, which I really think are working. I think it’s now in the back of these CEOs’ minds that, ‘Fuck, 3,000 people are gonna show up at my office.’ The head of Bank of America in Boston does not like the fact that 500 people show up at his house once a week. That kind of thing isn’t gonna happen if you move everything to the Internet.”

One likely evolution of Occupy Philly is a de-centralization of the movement, where participants break off into smaller occupations all around the area.

In fact, it’s already happening. On Saturday, a dozen members of Occupy Norristown set up their “99%” banners outside the Montgomery County Courthouse and stood along Main Street holding their signs—as they have every week for about a month—as passing cars honked their support. Several demonstrators, like elementary school teacher Karen Rosenberg, started out at Dilworth Plaza before trying to bring the message closer to home.

“This movement has to spread out beyond the big cities—you gotta get people in the ’burbs on board if you want real change,” says Rosenberg, who holds a large sign that reads, “Save the American Dream.”

“The middle class is getting squeezed to the point where I have to come out here into the street,” says Hank Finkel, a chiropractor who says he’s recently taken two other jobs to make ends meet. “I’m not an activist. I’ve never stood anywhere with a sign. In fact, I kind of resent that no one’s looking out for me, so I have to do it myself.”

They’re not camping out at Occupy Norristown, but Finkel says they get anywhere from 20 to 50 demonstrators in front of the courthouse each Saturday. They’ve also been coordinating with similarly sized occupations (some of which are encampments) in Bucks County, Phoenixville, Lansdale, Lancaster, Easton and elsewhere in Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as with Occupy Philly, to plan marches and events. They’ve scheduled a Dec. 17 regional General Assembly in Valley Forge. And some may take part in Occupy Bucks County’s “March for Good Jobs” scheduled to go down this Saturday in Bristol.

“It’s the networking right now that’s important—meeting other activists, setting up the infrastructure and coming up with new ideas for the movement,” says Finkel. “I think come springtime, when we have everything in place, you’re gonna see bus trips to D.C., big and little things, flash mobs here and there, lots of things to keep this rolling.”

“The camping in Philly sparked the fire,” he says. “Now the genie’s out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back.”

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COMMENTS

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

“Traum
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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