Is Occupy Philly a Man’s World? Sounds like it.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Nov. 18, 2011

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Photo by Tara Murtha

A lot has happened in the world of Occupy Philly since the alleged sexual assault last Saturday night.

With a push from the city, protesters have been mobile. Some Occupiers plan to move to another location while others intend to stay at Dilworth Plaza until what will certainly be a bitter end.

Whatever happens to what’s left of the splintering physical aspect, Occupy will continue as a media movement. Because that’s what Occupy is, after all: A media movement that was kick-started with a spectacular physical event that demanded media attention. It worked, and the concept of growing economic equality has been brought to the masses.

If the media movement phase of Occupy is going to be effective though, it needs to find some lessons in how the alleged sexual assault was handled.

To be clear, it is not certain a crime even took place yet. Charges have not yet been filed. It is, however, an ongoing investigation.

According to PPD spokesman Lt. Ray Evers, the man accused was detained but not formally arrested, pending a full investigation by Special Victims Unit which includes reviewing videotape of surveillance cameras surrounding City Hall.

“We’re not going to arrest someone for something [when] we haven’t had all the pieces of information in front of us,” said Evers.

Whether or not an arrest eventually occurs is beside the point, reaction to the allegations points toward a weak spot in Occupy’s command of media.

At an emergency press conference on Sunday, the alleged rape was the thorny peg on which Mayor Nutter hung his announcement that he is “re-evaluating” the city’s relationship with Occupy Philly. 

Citing public heath and safety concerns—the exact phrase used by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to raid Zucotti Park late the following night—Nutter verbally bulldozed Dilworth Plaza. Then issued an eviction three days later.

The day after Nutter’s change in attitude, Occupy blasted back.

“We believe the cynical use of sexual violence and health concerns are opportunistic ways for the mayor to justify attacks on our movement,” retorted Occupy through a spokesperson.

Politicians politicize events all the time; the perspective is not completely outrageous. But it’s hypocritical: Occupy Philly politicized it, also.

To be sure, there was an appropriate response on the ground. On Tuesday, a new “safe space” for women was set up. It was just a white tarp tent with a bare mattress and metal chair inside, but it was something. The Women’s Caucus voted to meet more frequently and host training for “male allies,” including how to physically eject creeps in a non-violent way.

These are positive steps, but they will hardly matter in the long run, given the eviction.

The response that matters the most—the most public one—showed that the 99% needs to deal with the realities of sexism and sexual violence better.

Immediately following the incident, Occupy Philly did not acknowledge the alleged rape on its official Facebook or Twitter feed, despite public requests from supporters to do so.

What happened to all the talk about transparency, supposedly the highest value of the Occupy movement? Did that go out the window regarding anything that might look bad?

If Occupy Philly stayed mum of the incident because it would reflect poorly on the movement, then they are officially politicians or, at least, spinning information like them.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Matt said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 04:28PM

“What? So, because we can't eliminate ALL violence and injustice from the world we should not cast a critical eye over the systemic corruption? You are right with news articles like this there is little hope.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 06:55PM

“No, with articles like this someone is shining a bright light on the hypocrisy that is the Occupy movement. They try to cover up what they don't wish people to know about them.

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3. Occupy Philly Media team said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 07:43PM

“I'd like to say this is all completely false, the fact is that we covered this very soon after it happened on our main media site which is well read, we didn't respond on facebook or twitter because there where technical difficulties that needed to be addressed. Those issues were soon taken care of, so yes there was an interruption in the flow of information through facebook and twitter, however that interruption was mediated by posts on Occupy Philly Media which is the main news outlet for Occupy Philly.

The public should know that there were two article published about that incident in the first 24hrs after it happened.”

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4. Matt said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 08:40PM

“What I was trying to highlight was the inherent, and perhaps deliberate, stupidity in the premise that a messager must be perfect to carry a valuable message. The occupy movement is a conglomeration of different people drawn together by their shared belief that the Global Financial Meltdown was caused by a flawed system and that the system is still deeply flawed, and that there is no will by the lawmakers to tackle the real, fundamental issues. On that point I agree with them.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Nov 18, 2011 at 09:09PM

“What a bunch of dopes.....

Now the Occupy movement has come to quoting facebook posts, tweets, website updates from anonymous faceless people. Shocker, you put a bunch of hippie dopes together without a coherent message, sharing tents in a park with strangers, hating "the man", the police, and the laws that rule our land, and someone is assaulted Nothing to see here, move on people”

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6. Mandy said... on Nov 19, 2011 at 01:41PM

“It's a shame that the Occupy movement is falling victim to the very things they protest. That doesn't make the grievances the movement has been espousing all along insignificant. It does show, however, show that no matter the situation, we, as humans, have something inherent within us to make sure what we're espousing is never shown in a negative light.

With saying that, it's a rookie who would update using the accused as the source for their information.

Occupy media may have been started in order to maintain transparency for the movement, having a fear of the mainstream media that covers them, but this particular incident makes everything far more opaque. Protesters may not want to deal with the police in a matter like this, but they would have far more accurate information into the alleged assault. The accused simply would be speaking to his own benefit.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Nov 21, 2011 at 02:16AM

“Wait, so if someone is accused of rape their side of the story is not allowed to be reported? Guilty until proven innocent? Isn't it standard journalism that folks in the hot seat get their say?”


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